With 75,000 in attendance, Toronto claims to host largest India Day gala
Last year’s celebration had attracted nearly 60,000 people, and had to be moved to a bigger venue since Yonge and Dundas Square, the location used until 2016, wasn’t big enough.world Updated: Aug 21, 2018 23:58 IST
Canada’s biggest city is now laying claim to hosting the largest celebration of Indian Independence Day in North America.
On Sunday, thousands thronged Nathan Phillips Square in downtown Toronto for the annual India Day festival. The final count of participants was nearly 75,000.
“This has become the largest India Day parade in North America, if not in the world outside India,” Dinesh Bhatia, India’s Consul General in Toronto, said. The annual event is usually held on the first Sunday following August 15.
The parade, with its colourful floats, showcasing various states of India and their cultures, started in 2008. Over time, it has turned into a “showpiece”, said Anu Srivastava, head of Panorama India, the umbrella body of Indian community and cultural organisations. She said the number of participants was “unprecedented”.
Last year’s celebration had attracted nearly 60,000 people, and had to be moved to a bigger venue since Yonge and Dundas Square, the location used until 2016, wasn’t big enough.
Bhatia cited growth in the size of the community due to immigration, better awareness of the event and a sense of belonging as reasons for the rise in interest.
It wasn’t surprising Canadian politicians were among those present, including federal minister of science and sport Kirsty Duncan, leader of Federal Conservative Party Andrew Scheer, and Toronto mayor John Tory.
Srivastava said the attempt to have as many states from the country represented: From the 20 floats in the parade, to another two dozen groups marching along, to others given space on the stage to showcase their culture in the form of folk dances and other entertainment.
She said outreach was key to engage as many organisations as possible, and in fact, enthusiasm was so high, they had to place a “hard stop” on the number of floats that could be included in the parade.
But, while a celebratory spirit dominated, there was a period of somberness. The passing of late Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee was marked with a minute’s silence and those gathered were also asked to support the relief and rehabilitation process in the flood-devastated southern state of Kerela.
While attendance this year grew by about 25% over 2017, organisers are hopeful that Indo-Canadians and others will join in larger numbers in the future. “This is definitely the signature parade of North America,” Srivastava said.
As for the crown of being the biggest, this isn’t a competition but just friendly rivalry with other cities, with which Toronto shares this spirit of revelry.
First Published: Aug 21, 2018 23:58 IST