New York: Times Square reverberated with the beats and music of ‘Garba’ as members of the Indian-American community performed the traditional Gujarati dance at the iconic New York City destination to celebrate its inclusion in UNESCO’s cultural heritage list.
Braving near-freezing temperatures late Thursday evening, members of the diaspora from around the New York tri-state area, including New Jersey, turned out in large numbers to perform Garba in the heart of Times Square.
Earlier this week, UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage inscribed ‘Garba of Gujarat’ on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity during its 18th session in Kasane, Botswana. The inclusion of Garba now makes it India’s 15th inscription on the List.
Dressed in traditional Garba finery, men and women performed the traditional Gujarati dance surrounded by the flashing Times Square billboards as New Yorkers and tourists from around the world stopped to watch, take photos and videos, and cheer the performance.
Some onlookers even joined the dance, trying to match the steps and the rhythm of Garba and the ‘Dhol’.
Addressing the community at the Times Square celebration, Acting Consul General of India in New York Dr Varun Jeph said it is a “momentous and historic occasion as we celebrate Garba of Gujarat” and its inclusion in UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list.
“These celebrations are not just celebrations of Garba but these are the celebrations of the diverse, vibrant, and celebrated traditions, heritage, and culture of India,” he said, adding celebrating Garba at Times Square – the “crossroads of the world” – is indeed special and unparalleled.
Jeph underlined that the celebration in Times Square highlights unity, harmony, and communities coming together. “Let the rhythm of Garba resonate in our hearts and let it spread across the world,” he said.
Jeph noted that over the years several other cultural elements of India have been added to the UNESCO list and “we are sure that in the coming years, more and more elements will be added”.
Leading diaspora organisation Federation of Indian Associations NY-NJ-NE (FIA) and community members came together with the Consulate General of India in New York to celebrate Garba at Times Square. A special video on Garba was also displayed prominently on a billboard in Times Square.
FIA Chairman Ankur Vaidya described the occasion as “historic” and said the Indian-American diaspora has a fondness for the art form of Garba.
“We are extremely grateful to UNESCO for recognising” the ancient art form that “is also an auspicious and divine celebration” in India during the festival of Navratri.
Vaidya also expressed gratitude to Prime Minister Modi for his leadership and efforts of the government of India in getting Garba inscribed in the UNESCO list.
FIA’s newly elected President for 2024 Dr Avinash Gupta said it is a proud moment for India and the diaspora across the world that Garba has been inscribed in UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list. “Garba brings people and communities together and we are so proud that we are celebrating it today at the crossroads of the world – Times Square.”
Following UNESCO’s announcement, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a post on X that “Garba is a celebration of life, unity and our deep-rooted traditions. Its inscription on the Intangible Heritage List showcases to the world the beauty of Indian culture. This honour inspires us to preserve and promote our heritage for future generations. Congrats on this global acknowledgement.”