Nearly 300 Sault residents who are originally from India gathered inside the former Aurora’s on McNabb Street Saturday night to cap off this year’s five-day Ganesh Chaturthi festival.
Ganesh Chaturthi is a cherished Hindu festival that honours Lord Ganesha – the elephant-headed God of wisdom and prosperity.
Hosted by the Indian Business Association, which was established by chair Vikas Chaudhary three months ago, the week-long celebration included vibrant processions, traditional music, dance performances, cultural exhibits, and the grand idol immersion ceremony.
“It’s our first Ganpati Indian festival here in the Sault, and it’s also our first open Ground Garba (traditional Indian dance) in Sault Ste. Marie,” Chaudhary said. “I believe in positivity, and this is something new for the community.”
In addition to being the chairperson of the Indian Business Association, Chaudhary is the owner of Prairie Donair on Second Line West. He serves as a member on the United Nations Climate Change Committee and is also a farmer leader on federal business.
This week’s religious function comes at a time when tensions between Canada and India continue to rise in the wake of Ottawa’s allegations that India may have been involved in the killing of a Sikh separatist leader in Vancouver, as reported by the Canadian Press last week.
Despite little evidence offered publicly, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau alleged that India was connected to the assassination of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, who was killed by masked gunmen in Surrey, B.C., back in June.
Canada has since expelled an Indian diplomat from the nation’s capital, while New Delhi responded by rejecting Trudeau’s accusation as “absurd and motivated” before India later expelled a Canadian diplomat.
Originally from Delhi, Chaudhary says the situation is not a true reflection of the positive relationship that citizens of both countries have established with one another.
“It’s all about politics,” he says. “I can say 100 per cent that no one can be happy after hearing this kind of news. Nobody wants this.”
“As long as Canada and India believe in brotherhood, then we’ll be safe. Everyone loves peace – that’s why people enjoy life in Canada. It’s the beauty of this country. People are coming here for quality of life.”
Having lived in the Sault with his wife and young daughter for three years now, Chaudhary says he’s looking forward to sharing the rich traditions and cultural diversity of his homeland as the Indian Business Association looks to host more events and celebrations in the near future.
“We have a great community here,” he says. "We’re all a family.”