With a culture that serves up unique art, gorgeous fashion, distinctive music, prolific spiritual traditions and mouthwatering cuisine, India offers much to celebrate.

On Saturday, the Sadhana Meditation Center in South Portland will do just that. In what organizers hope will be the first in a series of cultural celebrations, the Taste of India festival brings together many elements of this ancient society.

“India is so rich in culture,” said Sabina Naik of Scarborough, who grew up in Mumbai and helped organize the festival. “This is an opportunity to introduce people to Indian culture and traditions. And for Indians brought up in the U.S., it’s a good opportunity to learn about their country.”

The two-part event begins with Swami Tyagananda, head of the Ramakrishna Vedanta Society in Boston and Hindu chaplain at MIT and Harvard. Tyagananda will speak about meditation in a room where attendees can choose to sit on chairs or cushions.

“We asked him to talk about process, practice and culmination,” said Colleen Myers, executive director of Sadhana, “so that people who are new to meditation can learn from a teacher, and people who have an established meditation practice can learn as well.”

Myers said Tyagananda has spoken at Sadhana before, and has been well received.

“The last time he was here, people were rapt and you could hear a pin drop,” she said. “There’s a quality of stillness he brings to everything he does.”

There will be a 30-minute break after the talk, followed by an hourlong music and dance performance. More than a dozen performers will present short segments of classical Indian dance, sitar music, Bollywood-style dance, vocal music and sing-alongs.

The performances will be followed by a buffet dinner and hands-on displays and demonstrations. Experts will offer henna hand painting, bindi forehead painting and rangoli sand painting demonstrations. Others will set up displays of Indian musical instruments, art and artifacts.

The Jewel of India restaurant in South Portland will provide rice, curry and chai tea. Volunteers will supply dishes that highlight different regional cuisines.

“Indian food is so rich because of the spices,” Naik said. “It differs with regions, places and religions.”

As an organization, Sadhana seeks to foster cross-cultural and multi-faith understanding.

“The idea is to learn about the culture and how it’s survived and been brought here,” Myers said.

The chance to enjoy authentic Indian food is an added bonus.

 

Staff Writer Avery Yale Kamila can be contacted at 791-6297 or at:

[email protected]

Follow her on Twitter at:

Twitter.com/AveryYaleKamila