Record 300,000 attend India Bazaar festival
Toronto: Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow performed bhangra and danced to Bollywood beats as she joined crowds at North America’s biggest Indian festival at the Gerrard India Bazaar in this city. The Gerrard India Bazaar, which is the oldest and biggest Indian market in Nor-th America, drew a record crowd of over 300,000 people to its 21st annual festival.
The Toronto mayor opened the festivities as the two-day event of food, Bollywood music, dance and fun attracted Indians, Pakistanis, whites, blacks and various other ethnic groups in Canada’s most diverse city. Stretched over seven blocks on Gerrard Street, the bazaar remained jam- packed as fun-seekers, food and music lovers and shoppers thronged shops, food stalls and stages as Bollywood music blared from loudspeakers.
The organisers also introduced `Cricket Gully’ this year to introduce Canadians to India’s most favourite sport. “Over 300,000 people, including more than 40 percent of non-Indian background, attended the festival this year. It has become a great platform to introduce our culture, food and sport to our next generations as well as the mainstream,” said Gerrard India Bazaar president Chand Kapoor. Over 300 artists from various ethnic backgrounds performed during the two-day festival.
“We have never seen so much diversity of performers. Everybody seems to be drawn to Bollywood,” said Gerrard India Bazaar executive director Tasneem Bandukwala. She said hundreds of businesses spread over the bazaar did a roaring business as Toronto authorities stopped plying of street cars to make way for two-day revelries. “Many of our restaurants prepared some very special delicacies only for the festival,” said Bandukwala.
Started in the early 1970s, Gerrard India Bazaar came up near eastern Canada’s first gurdwara called the Pape Avenue Sikh Temple built in 1969. The bazaar was once the only place in North America for buying Indian groceries. Indians from far-off places such as New York, Ottawa, Buffalo and Montreal used to travel to Toronto to shop at Gerrard India Bazaar.
The bazaar was also home to North America’s first Indian cinema hall, called Naaz, started by a Punjabi family in the 1970s.