Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow set the stage ablaze with her energetic bhangra moves and lively Bollywood dance as she joined an astonishing crowd of over 300,000 people at the 21st annual Gerrard India Bazaar festival. North America’s largest Indian market, the Gerrard India Bazaar, once again proved to be a melting pot of cultures, attracting individuals from diverse backgrounds in Canada’s most multicultural city.
Spanning seven blocks on Gerrard Street, the festival was a feast for the senses, with an array of delicious food, pulsating Bollywood music, captivating dance performances, and lively shopping stalls. As the beats of Bollywood tunes echoed from loudspeakers, the bazaar became a kaleidoscope of excitement and joy.
New to this year’s festivities was the introduction of “Cricket Gully,” an initiative aimed at acquainting Canadians with India’s beloved sport, cricket. Gerrard India Bazaar president, Chand Kapoor, expressed his delight at the overwhelming response, with over 40 percent of attendees coming from non-Indian backgrounds. The festival served as an exceptional platform to foster cultural exchange and introduce Indian traditions, cuisine, and sports to a wider audience.
The two-day extravaganza featured more than 300 artists from various ethnic backgrounds, showcasing the vibrant diversity of talent in the city. According to Tasneem Bandukwala, the executive director of Gerrard India Bazaar, the allure of Bollywood seemed to unite and captivate the hearts of festival-goers from all walks of life.
As the festivities took over the streets, Toronto authorities halted street car services to accommodate the revelries. The local businesses at the bazaar enjoyed a roaring trade, and many restaurants tantalized the taste buds of visitors with unique delicacies crafted exclusively for the festival.
Gerrard India Bazaar, which had its inception in the early 1970s near eastern Canada’s first gurdwara, the Pape Avenue Sikh Temple, has come a long way. Initially, it was the go-to destination in North America for Indian groceries. Indian communities from neighboring cities like New York, Ottawa, Buffalo, and Montreal would journey to Toronto solely to explore the richness of this market.
Throughout its history, Gerrard India Bazaar has remained a hub of cultural and cinematic significance. The legendary Naaz, North America’s first Indian cinema hall, was established by a Punjabi family in the 1970s, making it an integral part of the bazaar’s heritage.
As the 21st edition of the Gerrard India Bazaar festival concluded, the echoes of celebration and cultural harmony lingered in the hearts of those who attended. This record-breaking turnout stands as a testament to the power of diversity, unity, and the magic of Bollywood that continues to bring people together in the vibrant city of Toronto.