Londoners swarmed to Canary Wharf‘s first Hindu festival at the Docklands Sailing and Water Sports Centre on Saturday.
Around 1000 people were welcomed to the Canary Wharf Mela by the sweet aromas of Indian food, handcrafted clothes and colourful artwork and décor.
The Mela was filled with stalls showcasing Indian arts and culture. Most of the stalls sold traditional Indian food, giving people a chance to try out a variety of popular Indian delicacies.
The event’s organisers wanted the Mela to introduce Indian culture to the people of Canary Wharf and create connections with the community. It was set up in the spare time of four locals.
One of the Mela’s organisers, Malika Bhatia Arora, 34, from Canary Wharf said: “The key thing about this Mela is that we want people to enjoy themselves and have a good time on a Saturday.”
“It’s really important that people have a chance to network and enjoy the art and culture. It’s really just about bringing out the best in people and giving everybody a chance to have a good time.”
Sarabjit Kaur, a Canary Wharf local and a food stall holder at the event said: “I wanted to showcase all the different types of food we have from India and it’s a great opportunity to bring in all the different types of food that people can enjoy.”
Other stalls offered displays of Indian costume jewellery and decorative ornaments. One stall holder, Shweta Gupta Goel, said: “This Mela is showing our Indian heritage and that was one of the main reasons why I wanted to be a part of the Canary Wharf Mela, it’s to make a brand name for all the Indians.”
Organiser Malika Bhatia Arora has been living in Canary Wharf for a number of years and said one of the reasons why she and the other organisers set up the festival was due to the lack of cultural events in Canary Wharf. She said: “There has never really been an event celebrating culture, especially when there are quite a few of us (Indians) in Canary Wharf. We decided after attending events in other areas outside of London that we should probably do something here.”
“This is our first Mela it’s fascinating that it’s gone so far that people are interested in it. We would like to continue with this if people enjoy it and if we can organise it.”
The event also housed a stall for Indian based charity Rang De. Ankur Chopra, who represented Rang De at the event said: “We are the UK chapter for Indian based charity Rang De. Essentially it’s about micro financing through crowdfunding in rural India but we aim to bring colour and empowerment to underserved communities too.”
Video and reporting by Alex Hurrell and Shima Begum