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“Something gorgeously new.” “Feel-good fantasy!” The raves and reviews for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Bombay Dreams,” which will make its appearance for the first time in Florida in April, have been far too many to count. Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater will be staging the Tony Award-nominated musical from April 19-23. The show tells the story of a handsome young actor who dreams of finding stardom and romance in a rich and exotic land.

Set amid India’s bustling film industry, “Bombay Dreams” features a lush score by A.R. Rahman, glittering costumes, lavish sets and exotic dance numbers. This Bollywood-inspired musical includes two water-dance scenes.

Based on an idea by Shekhar Kapur and Andrew Lloyd Weber, the play stars Sachin Bhatt, Sandra Allen, Reshma Shetty, Deep Katdare, Aneesh Sheth, Christine Toy Johnson and Suresh John. Music is by A.R. Rahman, lyrics by Don Black and book by Meera Syal and Thomas Meehan. The show premiered in London’s West End in 2002 and followed with a Broadway run in 2004.

Tickets for “Bombay Dreams,” which will be staged at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater at 8 p.m. on April 19, 2 p.m. on April 22, and 2 and 7 p.m. on April 23, are $37, $47, $57. The show also will be staged at 8 p.m. April 20-22. Tickets for those three days are $47, $57, $67.

Ruth Eckerd Hall is at 1111 N. McMullen Booth Road, Clearwater. For more information, call (727) 791-7400 or (800) 875-8682 or click on

Story provided by Uma Eyyunni

The Hindu Society of Northeast Florida the in Orange Park/Jacksonville area will hold its annual India Fest April 29 on its premises at 714, Park Ave., Orange Park. The festivities from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. will include food, fun and entertainment.

The exciting feature this year is the representation of several Indian states in separate tents, exhibiting cultural and culinary expertise.

The local medical association will hold a Health Fair from 10 a.m. till noon, which will include lectures by health professionals with Q&A sessions on topics such as women’s health, foot care, hypertension and many more.

A blood donation drive also has been arranged in collaboration with the blood bank.

A major first-time attraction this year is the Visa Camp organized by the Consul General of India.

There is a chance to win a new BMW 325i, for a suggested donation of $1,000, which provides one chance in 200 to win the car, because a maximum of only 200 tickets will be sold. All proceeds from the raffle will go toward the construction of a new temple on Greenland Road, Jacksonville. The sale of raffle tickets has already begun. Contact the temple at (904) 269-1155 or (904) 287-8334 to donate for a raffle ticket.

For more information, call (904) 269-1155, (904) 287-8334, (904) 565-2459, (904) 810-7626, (904) 743-7327, (904) 551-4301 or (904) 607-5213.

Story provided by Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center

Nrityagram Dance Ensemble will perform SRI – In Search of the Goddess in Ferguson Hall at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center on Saturday, April 15, at 7:30 p.m.

Nrityagram Dance Ensemble combines classical Indian dance forms with modern creative movement to convey powerful philosophical ideas and ancient stories of India. Six dancers perform the classical style of Odissi, one of the oldest dance forms in the world. Odissi is a distinct blend of rigorous technique with attitudes of love and passion to emphasize divinity in the ancient temples of east India.

SRI – In Search of the Goddess combines visual interpretations of Sri Aurobindo’s epic poems “Night,” “Fire” and “Death” with colorful and elaborate costumes.

Nrityagram Dance Ensemble was formed in 1990 under the direction of Protima Gauri, a classical dancer and visionary who believed in preserving India’s ancient forms of dance. In a small village in southern India, Gauri began mentoring and training students. The isolated community was named Nrityagram (dance village). The students lived together and trained intensely for years, perfecting the art form of classical Indian dance. This tradition continues, ensuring the continued opportunity for future generations of dancers and teachers. Students are provided with free lodging, board and training. The program also incorporates poetry, sculpting, mythology and ancient literature into the curriculum.

Nrityagram Dance Ensemble will hold a classical Indian dance master class for grade 11 to adult at the Patel Conservatory on Friday, April 14, from 6-8 p.m. The class is free for Patel Conservatory students and $5 for all others. To register, call (813) 222-1002. Registration is limited to 20 participants. Basic dance training is required.

Tickets priced at $22.50, $35.50 and $45.50 may be purchased by calling 813.229.STAR (7827) or (800) 955.1045 outside Tampa Bay, in person at The Center Ticket Office or online at TBPAC.ORG. For groups of 12 or more, call (813) 222-1016 or (813) 222-1018.

Congressmen John Mica, left, and Tom Feeney, second from right, are flanked by temple priests and Orlando-based Hindu Society of Central Florida board members during the March Festival of India event.

Story provided by Dr. Aravind Pillai

More than 2,500 people attended the fifth annual Festival of India at the Hindu Society of Central Florida temple’s grounds on March 18.

The daylong event began at noon with cultural shows in the community hall. Several hundred young artists presented their solo/group dance and music skills.

Stalls such as ISKON, Indian handicrafts, jewelry and garments attracted people by the dozens. The Indian Visa Camp set up by the Consul General of India in Houston granted 410 visas before the end of the day. The temple is indebted to the Chinmaya Mission for help with the Visa Camp and car parking. HSCF and Telugu Association made fresh dosas while raising funds for the temple.

Food was aplenty at the Festival of India held by the Hindu Society of Central Florida.

Dr. Anitha Gupta and her friends arranged the medical booth.

Another highlight of the day was a short visit by Congressmen Tom Feeney and John Mica who addressed the crowd. Temple board member Mohan Saoji deserves all the credit for arranging the visit by the congressmen.

The credit for organizing the festival goes to temple President Srinivas Jarugula and his teammates such as Ravi Gandhi, Anitha Gupta, Richa Joshi, Mithesh Harlaka, Alka Shukla, Raghu, Ravi Sarangarajan, Chitra Deshpande, Madan Arora and hundreds of other volunteers. Last but not the least, the temple could not have succeeded without the help of its priests and Chairman Mahendra Kapadia.


Madan Gurdial, left, Barbara Verchot, Mary Elmendorf, Nathaly Hewawasam and Jadeine Shives celebrate the accomplishments of local women making global differences.
Story provided by 1008 Wells Foundation

About 400 people of multiple cultures, backgrounds and faiths attended a March 11 sponsored by the 1008 Wells Foundation. Passionate Pursuits … A Celebration of International Women’s Day attracted heart- inspiring speakers, multicultural dance performances, acclaimed artists, sumptuous delicacies, festivities and fun.

In keeping with a much-loved 1008 Wells’ tradition, the program started with short prayers of unity and peace from the Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Islamic, Buddhist, Christian and Jewish faiths. The air then sizzled with Indian, African, Middle Eastern, Philippine and Jazz music as graceful dancers flowed across the gilded stage. Linda Callanan, founder of the Annai Center for Yoga, New York, unfolded The Secrets of the Inner-Self Number and Brenda Miller, Grace & Mercy Ministry, led everyone on The Journey to Find Our Passion with her inspirational message. The global bazaar and marketplace with its 37 artists and vendors gave everyone a chance to enjoy a taste of a world.

The highlight of the evening was the presentation of The Global Women’s Humanitarian Award. Twenty-three local woman ages 16 to 97 were honored for doing extraordinary things on a global basis. Nathaly Hewawasam was presented the Jr. Women’s Global Humanitarian Award. This Gateway High School student was recognized for her enthusiasm to raise $4,200 on her own for tsunami victims of Sri Lanka and starting the Kids-Aid Society. She continues to sponsor children in this still-devastated region. Barbara Verchot, founder of Wings of Peace, won the Global Women’s Humanitarian Award for her work in Thailand, including the distribution of blankets, encouragement of tribal women’s handicraft co-ops, construction of schools and medical clinics. The Lifetime Achievement Award went to Mary Elmendorf for her work in Mexico as the first female president of CARE and her numerous success stories in bringing freshwater to the marginalized communities of Mexico for over 50+ years.

Hosted by Jadeine Shives, founder of the 1008 Wells Foundation, and Madan Gurdial, president, the purpose of the evening was to raise awareness and funding for freshwater wells in India.

For information on 1008 Wells Foundation or how to participate in the next event scheduled for Sept. 16, call 407-460-7276, visit or write 1008 Wells Foundation, 8297 Champions Gate Blvd, Suite 127, Champions Gate, FL 33896.


Every religion and its celebrations are associated with certain specific times and seasons. From a metaphysical point of view, every major religious occurrence is meant to happen at a particular time for a particular purpose. This is the fundamental principle of the Hindu way of belief.

Ramnaumi, honoring the birth of Lord Rama, is no exception. Ramnaumi (April 6) is generally celebrated on naumi (9th) tithi (day) in suklapaksh (bright half) of the month of Chaitra (April). Chaitra also heralds the beginning of the Hindu new-year. This time also is synonymous with the spring season.

The Lord said, "I am kusum-akar" (maker of the flower). The new blossoms and changes in the environment, along with the pleasant weather (Basant), represent a new start to everything, with an anticipation of good tidings to come. The month is called Madhumass (symbolizing sweetness).

A prevalent and natural occurrence at this time is that the trees are shedding their old leaves and new blossoms are beginning to take form. This is a symbolic representation of the old giving way to the new or the destructive and creative forces of the Absolute God. He was called Mahanpurush (great soul) as He represents the manifestation of the Paarbrahm (Absolute Reality) into a personality (human form) that we can see and comprehend. He is recognized as a Purnavtar (complete powers of the Absolute), but He was known as Maryada-Purusotama.

Although His powers are Aloukick (beyond the powers of the mortal world), He exhibited basic human tendencies. His powers were to a level just slightly higher than most human accomplishments. His qualities were simple. His objective was to change the future, based on knowledge of the past. He wanted people to have faith in humanity. He demonstrated that with persistence, you could achieve what you want. He did not show anything impossible or did anything wrong, thus exemplifying the perfect model.

We saw this clearly in all the relationships that He had. To Ravana, he was an enemy. To Vibhishan, He was a friend. To Sita, His brothers, Hanuman, His parents, His subjects, He exemplified the pinnacle of the best relationship in every role. In this sense, we have come to see the personification of His character as a miraculous one.

On this occasion of Ramnaumi we pray for a change in behavior, such that all of our endeavors and relationships can be successful. His appearance was on Vyapini-Madhyan (covering the mid-day period). It occurred 6 ghari (hours) from sunrise, which is close to the mid-day hour. He appeared in sukla-paksh (the bright half of the month).

These factors imply that there is, or was, nothing to hide and that every thing about His appearance was good. The brightness of the day and hour symbolizes total clarity and openness of action. Noumi tithi (9th day) is just after the halfway point in the bright half of the month. Preceding this is ashtmi tithi (8th day), which represents destruction. As brightness falls on the 9th day, the implication is that all things can be seen and proper action can be taken for the desired outcome. Nine also symbolize peace.

Therefore, the Lord comes at the juncture of the 8th and 9th day for our liberation. He comes not to hurt anyone, but to set the example from which we can redeem ourselves. We saw this principle applied by the examples that He set throughout His lifetime.

Pandit Vishnu Sharma is a priest at Vishnu Mandir, 5303 Lynn Road, Tampa, and can be reached at (813) 654-2551.

Story provided by India Cultural & Education Center

About 4,000 people attended the India Fest 2006 held on Feb. 25, which was organized by the India Cultural & Education Center. Guest speakers at the daylong event offering Indian culture, food and dance included University of Florida President Bernie Machen, Gainesville County Commissioner Dr. Cynthia Chestnut, Gainesville Mayor Pegeen Hanrahan and Alachua County Sheriff Steve Olreich.

More than 100 people took advantage of the free health screenings and low-cost blood work during the Health fair.

“On behalf of ICEC and the India Fest Committee, I would like to sincerely thank each and every one of over 200 volunteers for their hard work and dedication in making India Fest a success,” said Shaheda Qaiyumi, ICEC president. “India Fest is one of ICEC’s main fundraising and outreach events each year and besides bringing the entire community together, it contributes to the maintenance of our building and our organization. It also provides an opportunity to work with children and students in celebration and promotion of our culture, fulfilling one of the main objectives of the Center.”

Planning is already under way for India Fest 2007. For information, call Uma Sethuram at (352) 271-4214.

Story provided by Krish Seetharaman

An annual event, Saint Thyagaraja Aradhana Day, was organized on March 4 by JAXRAAGA, an association in Jacksonville, which promotes Carnatic Music. This was held in collaboration with the Hindu Society of Northeast Florida on the temple premises.

Local vocalists and instrumentalists started the daylong program with a rendering of Pancha Ratna Krithis, as per the tradition followed in Thiruvaiyaru, Tamil Nadu.

Thereafter, children gave solo and group performances through singing and playing instruments such as violin, keyboard, mridangam and morsing. Later, adult musicians of Jacksonville and a few artists from Gainesville gave individual performances.

Other upcoming events in Jacksonville include the April 15 Ugadi celebration by Kannada Association of Jacksonville. For information, call 904-998-0148.

Also, the Tamil New Year Day on April 23 will be celebrated by Jacksonville Thamizh Manram, April 23. For details, call 904-519-5558.

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