DIWALI with Premier at Queen’s Park on October 8, 2014

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TORONTO: Diwali’s official celebrations in Toronto this year came two weeks earlier than traditional celebrations as Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, her ministers, members of the provincial parliament (MPP) and Indian consul general Akhilesh Mishra joined the Indo-Canadian community in Diwali puja at Queen’s Park here this week. Organized by Panorama India, an umbrella organization of various Indo-Canadian associations, Diwali celebrations at Queen’s Park (the Ontario assembly) are an annual feature where the premier joins and greets the Indo-Canadian community on the occasion. After the lighting of traditional diyas (lamps) and the chanting of mantras and prayers by Hindu priests, the premier (equal to a chief minister in India) greeted the Indo-Canadian community on the occasion of the most important festival in Hindu, Sikh and Jain calendars. Kathleen said the Festival of Lights assumes even more significance in Canada because it comes right at the time when dark winter sets in the country.

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Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne speaking at Diwali celebrations at Queen’s Park.

Calling Ontario an important role model for the world because of its racial and cultural diversity, the premier said the Indo-Canadian community is an important part of this diversity.

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MPP Dipika Damerla speaking at the Diwali function at Queen’s Park.

Earlier, Dipika Damerla, an MPP of Indian origin in Ontario, introduced the premier to the audience which included many corporate and business leaders, including Indo-Canada Chamber of Commerce president Dharma P. Jain. She explained the origins and importance of Diwali in Indian tradition and culture.

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Those who came to Diwali celebrations at Queen’s Park. Indo-Canada Chamber of Commerce president Dharma P. Jain is above (left).

Panorama India chief Anu Srivastava thanked the Premier for taking off her busy schedule to join in the celebrations. “You are a great supporter of Panorama India and we would like to thank you for attending our events. I would also like to thank the Consul General of India for attending the event,’’ Srivastava said.

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Panorama India chief Anu Srivastava welcoming the Premier.

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Panorama India chief Anu Srivastava (centre) with Panorama board director Shalini Srivastava.

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Panorama India board members Shalini Srivastava and Dhruba Ghosh.

Srivastava said the Festival of Lights symbolizes the victory of good over evil and Lord Rama’s return to his kingdom Ayodhya where people lit lamps in his welcome. “Hindus believe that the light from the earthen diya symbolizes the enlightenment within the individual,’’ she said. Srivastava also explained the significance of Diwali for Sikhs whose Sixth Guru, Har Gobindji, was released from captivity by Mughal Emperor Jehangir on this day, and for the Jains as Lord Mahavir attained Nirvana on this day. The Panorama India chief also thanked the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) for sponsoring Diwali celebrations at Queen’s Park right from inception.

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CIBC vice-president Raza Hasan

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CIBC’s Venky Raman (left) with Indian consul general Akhilesh Mishra (back to the camera).

On behalf of the bank, Raza Hasan , senior vice-president at CIBC, said his bank has “a long history of celebrating Canada’s diversity…this includes celebrating the artistic, cultural and business contribution of more than one million people of South Asian heritage in Canada.’’ Raza Hasan said his bank has issued a Diwali medallion with the image of Ganesha and he presented a coin to Premier Kathleen Wynne.


India Day Festival at Mel Lastman Square

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TORONTO: Toronto mayor Rob Ford danced to bhangra beats, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne wore salwar-kameez for the occasion and Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper and his multiculturalism minister Jason Kenney sent their greetings as thousands of Indo-Canadians celebrated India’s Independence Day in advance here on Aug 2.

A huge cultural parade followed by day-long music, dance and cuisine from various parts of India marked the day.

Joining them in the celebrations at Mel Lastman Square on Toronto historic Yonge Street were Indian high commissioner Admiral (Retd) Nirmal Verma and consul general Akhilesh Mishra, Senator Asha Seth, Ontario’s Indo-Canadian minister Dipika Damerla, federal and provincial lawmakers, and top bank executives.

Organized by pan-Indian cultural organization Panorama India, the celebrations kicked off with the cultural parade comprising various Indian states, with the newest Telangana leading with the largest contingent.

For a while, the stretch of Yonge Street next to Mel Lastman Square turned into a colourful mosaic of India as state contingents showcased the country’s rich cultural diversity. Tricolour scarves could be seen everywhere.

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Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne at India Independence Day in Toronto on Aug 2.
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Premier Kathleen Wynne with high commissioner Nirmal Verma, consul general Akhilesh Mishra, minister Dipika Damerla and Panorama India chairperson Anu Srivastava.

After the parade as the day-long cultural extravaganza began with the unfurling of the Indian flag, Premier Kathleen Wynne addressed the gathering. She asked if anyone in the gathering was there in India in 1947 when it got its independence. Many hands went up, and the Premier looked surprised as she greeted them on the happy occasion.

The Premier lauded India for its “remarkable’’ achievements since 1947. She said India and Canada shared many things, including cultural diversity, and hailed the one-million-strong Indo-Canadian community for its contribution to Canada’s diversity.

“Thank you for enriching Canada,’’ she said. Calling Canada-India relations a “thriving and vibrant connection,’’ the Premier said she wants to `strengthen and deepen’’ this connection.

On a jovial note, she thanked the Indo-Canadian community for bringing cricket to Canada in a big way.

In his speech, Indian high commissioner Admiral (Retd) Nirmal Verma described the recent elections in India as the world’s biggest democratic exercise in which even a lonely voter who lives deep inside the Gir Forest in Gujarat as a temple priest is catered to.

He recalled how US ships used to bring wheat to India for feeding its millions just after independence and how India has now become the world’s largest exporter of rice and the second largest exporter of wheat.

“We are proud of what we have achieved,’’ Admiral Verma said.

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Indian high commissioner Nirmal Verma, consul general Akhilesh Mishra and Senator Asha Seth.

Calling India a “melting pot of cultures,’’ the high commissioner said India and Canada shared common bonds of rich cultural diversity.

He said the Indian diaspora has thrived in Canada because it is a melting pot like India and thanked Canada for accepting the Indian community as equal partners. The high commissioner ended his speech with `Jai Hind, Jai Canada’.

In his message to the Indo-Canadian community, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said, “India has evolved into a vibrant, pluralistic democracy and is rising to global prominence.’’

The Canadian PM lauded the more than one million-strong Indo-Canadian community for its contribution to deepening ties between the two countries as he wished them “a memorable celebration’’ of the country’s 68th Independence Day.

Jason Kenny, minister for multiculturalism, said India Day celebrations were an occasion to “reflect upon the many ways in which Canadians of Indian heritage have contributed to Canadian society.’’

Kenney said Indo-Canadians have “enriched Canada with their traditions as well as with their skills, knowledge and talent.’’ He lauded the Indo-Canadians for “your commitment to the community, and to preserving and promoting Indian heritage and traditions.’’

The highlight of the day-long cultural extravaganza was the high-voltage bhangra by RDB’s lead singer Manj who set the stage on fire with hit numbers `Singh is Kinng’, Kade Saadi Gali Bhul Ke Vi Aya Karo, Tu Meri Dal Makhani, etc.

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Toronto Mayor Rob Ford doing bhangra with Manj at the India Independence celebrations on Aug 2.

Just as Manj was busy belting out these hit numbers, Toronto mayor Rob Ford popped in. Manj spotted him and reached him and made him shake hips to bhangra beats.

“How exciting to see Mayor Rob Ford dance to the scintillating bhangra beats of Manj,’’ beamed Panorama India chairperson Anu Srivastava who called the mayor to the stage to say a few words to the community.

The mayor lauded the Indo-Canadians as hard working and family-oriented people and `guaranteed’ a quick response if the community approached him on any issue. Similar sentiments were shared earlier from the stage by another Toronto mayoral candidate John Tory.

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Manj and Dr Cabbie star Vinay Virmani entertain the crowd
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Manj, Vinay Virmani, Tia Bhatia and others performing a song from the upcoming film Dr Cabbie.

The most exciting moment came when Indo-Canadian actor Vinay Virmani, whose film Dr Cabbie releases in September, appeared on the stage with Manj to sing and dance with him. Vinay, who was accompanied by Tia Bhatia, said his film is about a qualified doctor immigrant who is forced to take up cab driving in Toronto.

Away from the stage, nearly 30 vendors sold ethnic jewelry and treated visitors to Indian delicacies of biryani, idli, dosa, vada, chicken, corn, ice-cream,etc. Major banks had set up their kiosks.

The Telagana contingent was adjudged the best of the parade.

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Vinay Virmani, Tia Bhatia and Manj pose with Panorama India chairperson Anu Srivastava and director Suvarna Kulkarni.
Said Panorama India Chair Anu Srivastava,“The most interesting feature of this year’s Parade was the community’s enthusiasm. Gujarat’s decorated rickshaw had 400 Gujarati people in the contingent who came in two busloads from Brampton, whereas Telangana had extremely enthusiastic crowds of 150 in the parade with their traditionally decorated hand pulled rickshaws.’’
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At VIP reception, Premier Kathleen Wynne poses with Panorama India team. From left: Dhruv Ghosh, Brij Sharma, Chairperson Anu Srivastava, Shalini Srivastava and Vijay Kumar.

Earlier in the morning welcoming the Premier and others at a VIP reception in the nearby Novotel Hotel, Srivastava, who took over Panorama India chief just a few weeks ago, said, “Taking the lead of the organization twelve weeks ago in the middle of the term is not an easy task. Apart from learning the intricacies inherent to the organization, I foresee an urgent need to profile the Panorama platform and its mandate of Educate, Celebrate and Collaborate.’’

She added, “Panorama India is truly an organization with a dedicated team of volunteers who have immense love for their home land India and want to celebrate India’s rich culture in their adopted homeland Canada. In doing so, Panorama’s efforts have deepened the bonds between the two countries and developed cordial relations”.


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We Invite You with your Family & Friends to
Panorama India’s
65th Indian Republic Day Celebration & Mela
Pearson Convention Centre,
2638 Steeles Avenue East, Brampton, Ontario
From 10:30am to 5:00pm

Highlights
Featuring: India & Canada National Anthem by
Natalie Di Luccio
Toronto-born
Toured with A.R.Rahman
Sang for films such as Chennai Express, English Vinglish, Ladies vs. Ricky Bahl, Kadal (Tamil)
Performed on Coke Studio @ MTV with Amit Trivedi
Crowning of 5th Panorama India Idol,
Children Drawing Competition, Folk Dance Competition &
Colourful Cultural Program
Varieties of Food, Cloth, Jewellery, Services etc etc stalls

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