Music, food and people in traditional Indian dress returned to the William R. Talley Recreation Center on Saturday night for the annual Festival of India.

The festival included Indian performances, music, food and vendors selling traditional Indian clothing.

The first year the festival was held, in 2002, it brought out about 100 people, according to Manish Desai, president of the Indian Association of Frederick.

Since then it’s grown year after year with more than 700 people expected to attend Saturday’s event.

The original idea behind the festival, he explained, was to share with the community the many aspects of Indian culture.

“The Indian community is growing largely in Frederick County,” he said. “To represent the Indian culture in Frederick County, we do cultural events that encompass the ethnicity of India and India’s heritage.”

The festival brings out people and organizations from neighboring counties, as well as local elected officials.

This year, Desai wanted people to experience “good memories and good food” at the festival as well as gain an appreciation of the culture.

His favorite part about the festival? The food.

Purani and Kirithiga, two girls performing at the festival, agreed.

The 11-old-old girls performed bharatanatyam, which is a south Indian classical form of dance.

Before their performance, they were practicing with their teacher, Aarrthy Arunachalam.

Purani, from Gaithersburg, said she was nervous before going on to dance in front of the crowd. Kirithiga, from Clarksburg, was “neutral.”

Arunachalam’s favorite part was seeing the younger generation learn and appreciate the culture.

“I love seeing how the generations are still keeping the traditions alive, how these girls are learning and keeping the Indian tradition and the Indian art forms alive,” she said.

She explained that it’s important to continue the Festival of India so people can continue to experience authentic Indian traditions.

“It’s for them,” she said of the children. “They don’t see what it’s like in India, and quite frankly, neither do I. They get to experience the music, they experience the art forms, they experience the food and that, by definition, that’s part of the culture of India.”

She added that it’s a way to learn from each other, find similarities and grow from that.

“It allows us to share our culture with everyone,” she said. “I’ve seen several other people from the Frederick community come and enjoy the food and enjoy the dance. It’s an educational experience.”

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