Indian Canadians celebrated India's Independence Day in advance by holding a grand parade and a cultural extravaganza in the heart of the city here.
Led by Panorama India, an umbrella cultural organization of Indian groups, thousands of Indian Canadians took part in the Independence Day parade in Dundas Square where Indian Consul General Preeti Saran unfurled the national flag.
Saran also read the Independence Day message from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as thousands of Indian Canadians and Canadians, including two local ministers and legislators, joined in singing India's national anthem. The Indian envoy lauded the role of the expatriate community as the true ambassadors of India abroad. She referred to India's rise on the world stage and asked them to serve as a link between India and Canada.
Harinder Takhar, Indian origin minister in the Ontario Provincial Government, praised India for its rapid progress and said he was proud of his Indian heritage.
Ajit Khanna, co-chair of Panorama India and an influential Indian Canadian said, "We plan to take this Indian cultural shows to the level of Caribana (the famous Caribbean culture festival in Toronto that draws hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world). This event showcases our rich cultural heritage not only to Canadians and others, but also our youth born here.''
Nine colourful floats depicting various facets of India's rich cultural life were the main attraction of the annual celebrations.
When the dance and music sequence began on the stage, it was all fast-paced Bollywood numbers interspersed with brief Indian classical dance performances.
Toronto city seemed to sway when the loudspeakers blared "Jai ho" repeatedly from the Oscar-winning film Slumdog Millionaire. However, it was the Punjabi singing husband-wife duo of Sardool Sikander and Amar Noori who set Dundas Square in fire with their high-voltage performance.
Away from the stage, a mini-India had come up on the grounds of Dundas Square, the equivalent of Times Square in New York.
Six Indian cuisine huts and 20-odd make-shift shops had a busy time as people bought anything from saris to jewellery. But what rankled the organizers was the last-minute withdrawal by Punjabi music star and Padmashri Hans Raj Hans.
A source told IANS, "Hans Raj Hans had accepted our air ticket to travel to Canada. But he backed out at the last minute under pressure from some elements in Canada, though he told us that his wife was not well."