India Festival raises funds for Topeka Zoo

Taking the stage: Attendees dancing at India Festival. Dancers at the festival encouraged guests to join them on stage.

Esme Harrison

The annual Topeka India Festival kicked off Sept. 24 and invited everyone from the community to experience India’s culture through music, food and art, starting 10 a.m. and ending 2 p.m. at Gage Park.

The India Festival started in 2003 and continues to succeed in contributing to the community. The festival offers authentic Indian cuisine made by hard-working volunteers. Artists applied henna tattoos to guests in specially set-up tents and guests could purchase tickets for homemade chai tea.

On stage, a group of enthusiastic dancers encouraged guests to partake in their festive celebration. Many people attended, circulating the festival with curiosity.

Organizations such as Topeka Collegiate School and Topeka Zoo were welcome to pitch tents, educating guests on their missions.

The India Festival is charity-based and this year all of the proceeds go to the Friends of the Topeka Zoo. Even the jeweler and craft tents donate a portion of their profits.

Tiffany Swinney, office manager of Friends of the Topeka Zoo, stood at her tent educating guests on the Topeka Zoo’s philosophy. She had a bearded dragon as a welcoming pet.

“We have been a part of the India Festival for years, but this is the first time I have worked it along side with the zoo,” Swinney said. “I’ve always enjoyed visiting the festival and it has always been successful. It is a good opportunity to expose the community to different cultures.”

Swinney is also involved in Funding Arms, Education Programs and Promoting Education. Alongside the bearded dragon, she showcased pelts of coyotes and skunks, along with skulls at her tent.

Sivakumar Malayandi, this year’s chair, had a positive outlook on the festival’s mission.

“We have been doing this since 2003 and this year we are donating our profits to the Topeka Zoo, even though it changes every year,” Malayandi said. “I think this is a good opportunity for Topeka to broaden their horizons and so far, it has been successful. People come in happily and are genuinely interested in our culture and for me that is a nice thing.”

There is a different chair each year and this year Malayandi had a great time organizing it. The overall success of the India Festival was positive and as it has been a tradition since 2003, Malayandi sees it continuing for years to come. You can find them on Facebook as IndiaFestTopeka for updates and further information.