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By NITISH S. RELE - [email protected]

Festivities galore! That's the best way to describe the ongoing and upcoming Navratri and Diwali activities this year. Here are just a few of the numerous events scheduled in the West Central Florida area:


HINDU TEMPLE OF FLORIDA: Navratri celebrations will be held from Oct. 4-12; Diwali is set from Nov. 2-5; 5509 Lynn Road, Tampa; (813) 962-6890 or

GUJARATI SAMAJ OF TAMPA BAY: Navratri Garba is set from 8 p.m. Oct. 7-8 and Oct. 14-15 at Florida State Fairgrounds and Oct. 9 and Oct. 16 at India Cultural Center; Lalit Sodha and Babra groups to perform; free for Samaj members, $10 for non-members and guests; Diwali dinner-entertainment is scheduled for Nov. 5 at Florida State Fairgrounds; for information, call Kanti Bakarania at (813) 653-4981 or Parimal Butala at (813) 892-8197 or click on

CARIBBEAN CULTURAL ASSOCIATION OF TAMPA BAY: Diwali event scheduled from 6 to 11 p.m. Oct. 22; free; 1311 W. Waters Ave., Tampa; for information, call Thak at (813) 936-9439 or Winston at (813) 972-8112.


HINDU SOCIETY OF CENTRAL FLORIDA: Navratri Mahotsav will be held from 7:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. Oct. 4-12 with performances by Raval Brothers, Navarang and Jhankar; $95 family pass for all nights; daily pass available; free parking; for information, call Mahendra Kapadia at (407) 294-6685, Hasmukh Mistry at (407) 257-3816 or Mala Karkhanis at (407) 365-0985. Diwali celebrations (Laxmi Puja) is scheduled at 5 p.m. Nov. 1 and Annakut at 5 p.m. on Nov. 5; 1994 Lake Drive; Casselberry; for temple information, call (407) 699-5277 or click on

ASSOCIATION OF ASIAN CULTURAL FESTIVALS: Eighth annual Diwali Mela will be held from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. Oct. 29 in the Disney Amphitheater at Lake Eola in downtown Orlando; free; for information, call Lalman Persaud at (407) 293-6691 or e-mail [email protected]


SHIRDI SAI CENTER: Navratri celebrations will be from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Oct. 4-12; Diwali will be held from 6 to 7 p.m. on Nov. 1; 4707 Pleasant Grove Road, Inverness; for timings of the center and any other information, call (352) 860-2181 or e-mail [email protected]

�Mystic India� is being shown at the Orlando Science Center.
By NITISH S. RELE [email protected]

The folks at the Orlando Science Center are bustling with excitement. �

The reason? Well, the center has begun showing �Mystic India: an Incredible Journey of Inspiration� at its CineDome. The 45-minute film, a presentation of BAPS Care International, will be shown daily at the center. �

The film transports you back to 18th century India, revealing an ancient culture and civilization. It follows Neelkanth, a young boy who walked for seven years and 8,000 miles across this vast majestic land. �Mystic India� ( also takes an interesting look at the amazing power of yoga and meditation. Photographed by award-winning photographer Reed Smoot and directed by the well-known and respected Keith Melton, the film is distributed by Giant Screen Films. More than 45,000 volunteers helped recreate authentic scenes for the film. Festivals seen in the film are large and spectacular. Massive crowds celebrate the 2,500-year-old Festival of Chariots. Thousands take part in the celebrations, including the annual Diwali and Holi festivals. �

Show times are noon and 3 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, noon, 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and 3 p.m. on Sundays. �

Ticket price for the film is $5 for children (ages 3 through 11) and $8 for adults. The Orlando Science Center is at 777 E. Princeton St. For information, visit or call 407-514-2000. �


Pallavi Patel treats a patient at the USF Pediatric Care Center in Tampa.
By NITISH S. RELE - [email protected]

Add another feather in Pallavi Patel�s cap.

The Tampa, Florida-based philanthropist recently picked the 2005 BusinessWoman of the Year honor from Tampa Bay Business Journal. She was selected from seven business female leaders in as many categories. Patel also was winner in the international category.

�I had been notified earlier that I was winner in the international category but I wasn�t aware that I was an overall winner,� says Patel. �When the announcement was made, I was very happy. This award encourages women to work hard and feel appreciated.�

An independent panel of judges picked the winner for the 2005 BusinessWoman of the Year. �These women have climbed to prestigious points in their respective fields, and now their imparted wisdom serves to benefit the business community as a whole,� says Jackie McConnell, managing editor of the Tampa Bay Business Journal. Patel is owner of 13 Bay Area Primary Care medical practice offices in Tampa Bay. She also is president of the Foundation for Global Understanding along with her husband Kiran Patel, a former president of the American Association of the Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI).

�I would like to associate more with the business woman�s group,� says Patel, who also volunteers her time and free health care services at the Dr. Pallavi Patel Pediatric Care Center, part of the USF/Dr. Kiran C. Patel Charter in Tampa. �If we can join hands, we can do a lot more, especially in global projects.�

Last year, the Dr. Pallavi Patel Performing Arts Conservatory in Tampa opened its doors. The 45,000-square-foot school at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, offering 20 studios, workshops and stages for theater, music and dance, received its name after the Patels donated $5 million.

The Patels also have contributed $3 million to build a research institute at a hospital in Tampa and a $18.5 million to the University of South Florida for a Center for Global Solutions. The couple is working to build a heart hospital in Tanzania.

Chief Guest Josh Burgin, aide to Hillsborough County Commissioner Brian Blair, prays along with community leaders on Sept. 4 at BAPS Swaminarayan Mandir Tampa.

BAPS Swaminarayan Mandir Tampa, under the auspices of BAPS Care International, held two special prayer assemblies Sept. 4 and Sept. 11 to remember the victims of Hurricane Katrina and raise funds for BAPS Care�s continuous efforts.

Through the inspiration of Pramukh Swami Maharaj, volunteers were immediately mobilized for relief efforts to ensure that the needy would avail of timely assistance in the way of food and other requisites. His letter of appeal was read out:

"Due to the recent natural disaster of Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans as well as Alabama and other states in America have greatly suffered the heart-breaking loss of human life and devastating property damage. We would like to express our heartfelt sympathy to all of those innocent people affected and pray to Bhagwan Swaminarayan that they obtain peace and experience quick mental, financial and social recovery. For those who have passed away, we pray their souls attain eternal peace.

It is our duty to help those innocent people, in each and every way, in the times of such a horrible disaster. It is our request that everybody generously donate, to the best of their ability, to this humanitarian aid.

By giving every type of assistance we are capable of, to our fellow brothers and sisters, God will be extremely pleased. Even a small donation will give many the help to re-establish their lives."

Chief Guest Josh Burgin, aide to Hillsborough County Commissioner Brian Blair, conveyed his appreciation on behalf of the county to all for the efforts being taken to alleviate suffering. He also conveyed Commissioner Blair's best wishes to the gathering.

About 300 people were in attendance, including community leaders and dignitaries who appreciated BAPS Care's humanitarian relief works.

"It is a time of great sadness for us all. At a time like this, we all need to unite and pray for those whose have lost family and also for those who have been displaced by Hurricane Katrina. We should introspect and work towards offering our support to those affected by Katrina's wrath." said Praful Patel, public relations volunteer.

"We can all do something according to our capacity. Whether we pray, give financial aid or just listen, these things all help," said Community Outreach Coordinator Dr. Sharad Patel.

To help victims of Hurricane Katrina, click on

By NITISH S. RELE - [email protected]

�It is not often that you meet someone as beautiful inside and out as Suphala. It is less often that you meet them sitting next to Salman Rushdie. But it is even less often that they turn out to be Zakir Hussain�s number one tabla student, and willing to share their musical genius with you at a recording studio three days later. Despite the infinitesimal chances of this happening, it did, and I think of it as nothing short of a miracle. Ladies and gentleman � Suphala!� � Sean Lennon.

Suphala Patankar (known mostly by her first name) couldn�t have asked for a better introduction. Well, maybe Rushdie could have topped that one but Lennon still sketches a fine picture of an artist whose music evokes the timeless in manipulation of rhythm and melody.

The 30-year-old has been in the news lately with the release of a second album �The Now,� (released by Rasa Music) which features such singers as Norah Jones and Vijay Prakash, and Niladri Kumar on the tabla, on its 12 tracks. Suphala�s first independently produced album, �Instru Mental,� came out in 2000.

�My music is a reflection of my personality,� says Suphala. �This reality is the beginning of the mainstream of tabla. The sound of this instrument is sought in all music genres nowadays.�

There is no doubt that Suphala deserves all the credit being showered upon her. The Minneapolis native, whose parents are Indian immigrants, was giving classical piano concerts at just 5 years of age. Throughout her teens, she also studied violin and taught herself how to play a drum kit. �I seemed to pick up drums easily, and thoroughly enjoy the sound,� she says. �Soon after starting tabla, I also taught myself to record my own compositions using the latest virtual studio technology.�

After a trip to India, Suphala�s mother brought back a set of tablas. She found an American musician who had studied tabla with a guru in India. �After a couple of months of lessons, he called Ustad Zakir Hussain, who was giving a workshop in California, and said he had a student who would like to come to his class. Zakirji was very welcoming,� she says.

It wasn�t long before Suphala was traveling to India every year to study with Zakir Hussain and his late father, Ustad Allarakha. �Being in India where I could hear the tabla being played regularly and be present during music season � when all the masters are touring and performing � has represented a huge part of my learning experience,� she says.

And when she began performing in the U.S., Suphala began contributing to recordings and performances of other musicians � from rock to hip-hop to western classical to jazz to electronic. She has worked with such artists as Perry Ferrell, Michael Bland, Vernon Reid, Timberland, Edie Brickell and, of course, Norah Jones. She leads a band, which includes violinist Mazz Swift and trombonist Dana Leong. She has been traveling nationally and internationally presenting concerts.

For more information on Suphala or to buy �The Now,� click on And enjoy the music.

The Abhinava ensemble performs Sept. 17 in Tampa.

Nearly 600 people attended Bhaav Raag Taal, a fundraiser on Sept. 17 for the Hindu Temple of Florida in Tampa. The funds raised during the event will go toward completion of the temple�s Raja Gopuram.

The scintillating performance by the Abhinava ensemble from Bangalore was widely appreciated for its highly creative fusion and blend of Eastern and Western dance techniques. Renuka Ramappa was instrumental in bringing this troupe over from India after being enthralled at a performance last year.

In his welcome address, temple President G.M. Ramappa said that the funds raised through the performance would benefit not only the temple but also the victims of the Hurricane Katrina tragedy.

Temple Vice President Gaurangi Patel organized the dinner following the program at the Sickles High School Auditorium.


Jyoti Venkatachalam poses with her students Kanchi Batra, left, and Avani Singh.
Story provided by Abhyasa School of Dance

Natyashikhara Sringara Shiromani Jyoti Venkatachalam�s �Abhyasa School of Dance� presented the arangetram of Kanchi Batra and Avani Singh on Sept. 3 at the Sickles Auditorium in Tampa. This was the 10th arangetram of the dance school.

The performance was indeed a treat to the eyes. The Impeccable taste of Venkatachalam was evident in every nuance of the presentation, be it in the choice of dances presented, elegant costumes, style of presentation and music to accompany the dancers. About 450 people attended the event.

Kanchi and Avani started the performance with the �Mallari,� a traditional invocatory dance, set to music and rhythm pattern originally performed in temple processions. It was a befitting beginning to the performance, followed by a brisk Tiripugal and Allaripu. The vitality and energy of the dancers charmed the audience.

Jatiswaram in Ragam Bhairavi gave a glimpse into the purity of the style. Venkatachalam, an exponent of the traditional �Pandanallur� style of Bharat Natyam was successfully able to impart the subtle nuances of the style to her students. The varnam in Ragam Nattakurinji was certainly the �piece de resistance� of the program. The song sings the praises of Lord Shiva. Kanchi and Avani�s �abhinaya� or _expression was noteworthy and their ability of emoting the sensitive lines was praiseworthy.

Changing into bright yellow costumes befitting the Hindi Meera bhajan, the dancers presented �Pag Ghungroo Baandh Meera Nachire.� It depicted the episode of Meera drinking from the poison bowl offered to her and yet remaining miraculously unaffected. It was followed by a piece in praise of goddess Durga. The song described the beauty of the Goddess and asks for her blessings. Avani and Kanchi dressed in deep red costumes portrayed an attractive picture while dancing to the melodious song �Durge Durge.�

The Tillana was the finale to evening�s program. Set to the Ragam �Kanada,� it was choreographed with swift, brisk movements in the changing rhythm patterns.

The performance was highlighted by a rendering of songs by Sudev Warrier who was accompanied by Sudaman Warrier on the mridangam and Krishna Prasad on the flute. The program was excellently introduced and explained by Sharmishta Sarkar as the master of ceremonies. Kala Gangadharan deserves credit for dressing up Avani and Kanchi immaculately and looking after their back stage needs. It is rare to find a combination of an excellent teacher, hard working students and extremely talented musical and stage support in one performance! But as the teacher and director of Abhyasa School, Venkatachalam managed to present the best of all aspects in one magnificent performance by her students.

Venkatachalam has been teaching Indian classical Bharat Natyam and traditional folk dances in the Tampa Bay Area for the last 12 years. She has been actively involved in presenting her students in all the festive events in the Bay area and around the U.S. She has traveled all over the world performing as a professional artist and has won many awards and accolades.

Classes are held at Club Tampa Palms throughout the week. For information, contact Venkatachalam at (813) 977-9039 or (813) 404-7899 or e-mail [email protected].

Kuldip Gupta, left, and Braham Aggarwal accept the award from Jadeine Shives and Madan Gurdial, recognizing the first well sponsorship

More than 300 people attended a 1008 Wells Foundation fundraiser on Sept. 17 in Orlando. Proceeds from the event, which featured Indian music, bhajan singers, intriguing story tellers, Bharat Natyam dance performances and other entertainment, will fund construction of freshwater wells and other drinking water systems in India.

The evening was co-hosted by emcee�s Madan Gurdial, president of 1008 Wells Foundation, and Tracey Amar, fellow member on the Board of Directors.

Jadeine Shives, founding chairman of the1008 Wells Foundation and author of �Digging a Well to Heaven,� candidly opened her heart and soul to the audience and welcomed everyone inside to see it through her own eyes. The heartbreak on a train somewhere in the middle of an arid hell in India, terrifying nightmares that followed for years, the confrontation of her own soul�s inspiration, and the final triumph of courage over raging fears, left the audience in a hushed silence.

With the �why� of the project answered, the �how� was shared by special guest speaker Wariko Kabuga-Waita, regional manager for the U.S. East Coast office of World Neighbors. The organizational partner in well construction with 1008 Wells Foundation, Waita impressed on everyone through videos and heartwarming stories the difference one freshwater well can make in the life of a thirsty village.

Hindu University of America already is sponsor of the first well project. Upon its completion in November 2005, the village of Sinji Gram Panchayat, in the Sabrong district just outside of Darjeeling, West Bengal -- with about 120 residents -- will have a sustainable source of clean fresh drinking water. Accepting the plaque honoring the generous donation was Braham Aggarwal, chairman of Hindu University, and President Kuldip Gupta.

Madan Gurdial himself has pledged funding for the next two wells. The broker of Global Village Realty and vice-chairman of the Poinciana Hindu Mandir spoke on what inspired him not only to donate but also to become an active participant in the well projects by becoming the president of the 1008 Wells Foundation. For more information, click on, e-mail: [email protected], call 407-460-7276 or write to 1008 Wells Foundation, 8297 Champions Gate Blvd., Suite 127, Champions Gate, FL 33896.


Project Ahimsa co-founders Vijay Chattha (far left) and Tejas Patel (second from right) and his wife Bijal (far right) with event sponsor Fort Myers� ASC Geosciences's Jay Saxena (second from left) and his wife Shilpa (center) at Project Ahimsa's fourth anniversary celebration and benefit event at the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, on Sept. 17.

Project Ahimsa, a nationally recognized charity dedicated to a global effort to empower youth through music, raised $15,000 at an event celebrating its fourth anniversary and the launch of its Tampa Chapter on Sept. 17. A portion of the proceeds will help the Red Cross�s Hurricane Katrina relief efforts.

The evening of music, art and hors d�oeuvres was held at the renowned Salvador Dali Museum, the permanent home of the world's most comprehensive collection of the celebrated Spanish artist's work, in St. Petersburg. The evening�s youngest entertainers were the Culture Kids, children who have been exposed to world music in Project Ahimsa�s programs at Tampa�s Renaissance Center for the Arts; they performed original songs written for the occasion. Project Ahimsa recently created summer world music programs at the Renaissance Center, an institution that provides music and arts education for children from under-served populations in Tampa.


The Culture Kids, children who have been exposed to world music in Project Ahimsa�s programs at Tampa�s Renaissance Center for the Arts, perform original songs they wrote for Project Ahimsa's fourth Anniversary Celebration and Benefit Event at the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg on Sept. 17.
Headlining the entertainment for the evening was Grammy award nominee Shankar, the distinguished violinist/vocalist who has collaborated with eminent performers like Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins, Frank Zappa and Zakir Hussain, and has sold 20 million records in the process. Performing with Shankar was the LA Drum Cartel, featuring percussionists Ravi Drums and Robin DiMaggio; the three performers delivered a spectacular sonic synthesis.

Earlier in the evening, Astha Singhal, a dancer with the Los Angeles-based Taal Dance Company, enthralled attendees with her superbly choreographed performance, and DJs T-UrbanGroove, Nihal Mehta and Vijay Chattha (blacKMahal) kept the capacity crowd on its feet throughout the night. In the gallery, the sweet sounds of the Renaissance Latin Jazz Ensemble resonated in the ears of guests as they toured the museum�s elaborate collection.

Artist Juan-Pablo Parra donated his work to the silent auction that was held during the evening.

The main sponsor of the event was Naidip Capital. Primary sponsors were ASC Geosciences, Orion Communities, Suarez Financial, and Unity One Title and Land Group.

�The official launch of Project Ahimsa in Florida was a huge success. Project Ahimsa is grateful for the wonderful exposure and support from the local community and plans on creating numerous unique music programs in the Tampa Bay Area and around the world,� said Project Ahimsa co-founder Tejas Patel. �The kids were so excited by the DJs use of turntables for scratching and mixing that we plan to set up an electronic music program in Tampa, which will teach kids how to use the computer, mix records, and become future Ahimsa performers.�

Project Ahimsa, a global effort to empower youth through music, was co-founded in 2001 by entrepreneurs Tejas Patel, based in Tampa, and Vijay Chattha and Nihal Mehta, based in San Francisco. Project Ahimsa (which means non-violence in Hindi) is dedicated to fostering unity and peace through arts exchange and education. For information, visit

Mental Health Column

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