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Indian independence cause for celebration in Flushing

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Vithusha Nadaraja takes part in a Republic Day performance at the Hindu Temple Society of North America. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Rishika Jikari (front) performs a traditional dance. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Champakbhai Parikh (l.) and Dr. Gaddam Reddy (r.) unfurl India's flag and the rose petals inside at the Hindu Temple Society of North America's Republic Day ceremony. Photo by Rebecca Henely
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Akash Parikh (r.) shows the Indian flag. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Dancers wear bells on their ankles as they perform. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Girls demonstrate a Bharatynah remix of popular moves. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Sisters Rathika and Thevika Thevathasan perform on stage. Photo by Christina Santucci
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An image of Lord Ganesh is covered in flowers. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Rishika Jikari (front) performs a traditional dance. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Ashwin Prabaharan shows his patriotism. Photo by Christina Santucci

Flushing Indians celebrated the signing of their home country’s constitution Saturday with songs and classical dances at the Hindu Temple Society of North America. The festivities also included a hoisting ceremony for the Indian flag.

“The intention is to get together all Indians under one umbrella,” Champakbhai Parikh, who conducted the flag hosting, said of the event.

This is the 10th year the society has held Republic Day celebrations. While the country broke from British rule Aug. 15, 1947, the constitution went into effect Jan. 26, 1950. This year marked the 63rd Republic Day.

“It’s just like how you celebrate July 4,” said Lakshmi Sundararaman, who helped lead the ceremonies.

The society’s festivities for the holiday were held in the auditorium at 143-09 Holly Ave.

Parikh said this is the 39th flag hoisting he has ever done. In it, the orange, white and green Indian flag is tied up with rose petals, which come out as the flag is unfurled. The audience then salutes the flag.

Dr. Gaddam Reddy, president of the society, said the orange band of the Indian flag represents courage and sacrifice, the white band represents truth and peace and the green band represents faith, although alternate meanings for the colors have been given. The blue symbol in the center is a wheel, or “chakra” with 24 spokes.

Local students also sang patriotic songs in India’s native tongues and performed dances in traditional Indian dress.

“We don’t want to forget our root, because we are the root of India,” Parikh said.

But Parikh said during the ceremonies the society made a point to have the American flag on the stage.

“We respect America because we are citizens and we respect India because we have an origin in India,” Parikh said.

Athevika Theva, 17, sang both “Vande Mataram,” the national anthem of India, and “The Star-Spangled Banner” during the ceremonies.

“It was nice,” she said. “I like singing up there.”

City Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing) attended the event as a guest of honor. He said the Indian population is one of the largest ethnic groups in Queens, and Indians have contributed much to culture, music and science.

“In our city hospitals, more than one half of the medical staff are from India,” Koo said. “So you know how important they are.”

Parikh said Republic Day was a day for patriotism and respect for the motherland of India, but also a day to remember the contributions of Mohandas Gandhi, the central figure of India’s independence movement.

“People must know the nonviolence and message of Gandhi: peace and love,” Parikh said.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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