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Published: Saturday, 9/30/2006

Indian-American troupe pays homage to Gandhi, King

BY DAVID YONKE
BLADE RELIGION EDITOR
"Ahimsa: The Path of Peace" will be presented at 3 p.m. tomorrow in the Franciscan Center of Lourdes College, 6832 Convent Blvd., Sylvania. Tickets range from $10 to $250 and are available from the box office, 419-824-3975.
"Ahimsa: The Path of Peace" will be presented at 3 p.m. tomorrow in the Franciscan Center of Lourdes College, 6832 Convent Blvd., Sylvania. Tickets range from $10 to $250 and are available from the box office, 419-824-3975.
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Two men of peace, from opposite sides of the globe, will be celebrated tomorrow in a program of dance, music, dialogue, and multimedia presentations.

Ahimsa: The Path of Peace, conveys the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. The program, presented by the Hindu Temple of Toledo as part of the Erase the Hate outreach, was created by a Detroit-area troupe called Nadanta. It features a cast of 50 Indian-American performers, with choreography by artistic director Chaula Thacker.

The purpose of the 90-minute presentation is to reaffirm the importance of nonviolence and peaceful alternatives, but in an entertaining way, according to Bharat Thacker, Mrs. Thacker's husband and a co-founder of Nadanta.

"There are two spiritual characters, one violent and one nonviolent, and a lot of the program happens through dialogue," Mr. Thacker said. Himsa represents violence, and Ahimsa is the peaceful path.

The play was created by Mrs. Thacker and Nadanta to promote and preserve Indian culture. Mr. Thacker said there are 50,000 Indian-Americans in Michigan and about 30,000 in the Detroit area.

"Most ethnic organizations tend to be inward-oriented, tied together by language, food, religions, or region where they came from," he said. "We took the opposite position to preserve Indian culture. We want to make it part of the mainstream culture."

Attempting to preserve one's culture in isolation, without interacting with the general population, would result in an increasingly smaller and smaller group, Mr. Thacker said. On the other hand, he said, reaching out into the community helps to both preserve and promote Indian culture.

Mr. Thacker and his wife are from Gujarat State in western India, near Bombay. He said he immigrated to the United States in 1967 and his wife in 1977.

"When I came here 40 years back, the issue was to come as a student, you will study, and go back. Many of us stayed here," Mr. Thacker said.

Immigrants arrived from different parts of India, and the diversity of Michigan's Indian culture has become a key component of Nadanta.

"One really gets exposed to a broader Indian culture, and you see things from all over India," Mr. Thacker said.

Ahimsa's broad view of spirituality reflects Gandhi's belief in equality among the four prominent world religions of Hinduism, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, he added.

Ila Mehta of Toledo said the Hindu Temple is bringing Ahimsa to the area to help raise funds for a Gandhi Lecture Series, which she hopes will be held annually at the University of Toledo.

"Ahimsa: The Path of Peace" will be presented at 3 p.m. tomorrow in the Franciscan Center of Lourdes College, 6832 Convent Blvd., Sylvania. Tickets range from $10 to $250 and are available from the box office, 419-824-3975.



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