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The Rath Yatra (India Festival of Chariots) is coming to the Tampa Bay area. For the first time ever, the Rath Yatra -- which originates in Jagannatha Puri in Orissa where it is still observed – has been planned Jan. 8 at Curtis Hixon Park in downtown Tampa.

“The purpose is to enhance global awareness of Lord Jagannatha and enrich Tampa Bay’s social and cultural spirit by making Rath Yatra a tradition,” said Shyam Mohapatra, chairman of the Tampa Bay Rath Yatra Association. “It will be a great day to celebrate unity in diversity through art, culture, music and feast, and start the New Year with the blessings of the Lord for Tampa Bay.”

Mohapatra estimates that about 5,000 people from all over West Central Florida, including Orlando, Lakeland, St. Petersburg, Clearwater and other cities will attend the event. The rath (chariot) for the yatra (pilgrimage) will be built by the ISKCON Alachua temple.

Several floats from various associations will be a part of the Rath Yatra. Also, booths will be set up on the park. Local participants will present cultural programs on the stage. All attendees will be served a vegetarian meal.

Co-sponsored by the FIA (Federation of Indian Associations) Tampa Bay, the daylong event will be held from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Curtis Hixon Park, 700 N. Ashley Drive.

For more information, call Shyam Mohapatra at (813) 907-9580, e-mail or click on


More than 9,000 people attended the 18th annual India Festival on Nov. 12 at the University of South Florida Sun Dome in Tampa. The daylong celebration, which consisted of dance competitions, including raas, garba, folk dance, bhangra and classical began at 1 p.m. and continued till 11 p.m.

Attendees shopped at various booths, for clothes, jewelry, food and other services.

More Pictures: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4

More than 2,500 people attended Annakut and Diwali celebrations on Nov. 5 at the Hindu Society of Central Florida’s Temple in Casselberry/Orlando. The grand finale was the fireworks display show.
Story provided by Hindu Society of Central Florida

More than 2,500 people attended the Annakut and Diwali festival celebrations Nov. 5 at the Hindu Society of Central Florida’s Temple in Casselberry/Orlando area.

The evening program included an elaborate Annakut puja during which hundreds of food items were brought in by devotees as offerings to God. “All three priests performed the various pujas and the vast number of lamps and decorations created a magical place inside and outside the temple; it was like Vrindavan,” said Dr. Pillai.

A virtual cornucopia of food, flowers and lights was set up by Rashmikant and Mita Khatri. Several devotees created elaborate rangoli designs and the temple exterior and surroundings were bathed in light designed by architect Kishore Pathare.

Srinivas Jaragula led the 100-volunteer team to guide the crowd, assist with pujas and later serve dinner.

The actual work for the event, planned a month ago, was wrapped up 10 days under Mahendra Kapadia’s leadership. Upon hearing the devotees praise and seeing their enjoyment, he promised “this grand scale celebration of our culture and religion will continue at the Casselberry Hindu temple in the future.”


The Hindu Society of Central Florida (HSCF) is holding its annual Donors Appreciation/Annual Banquet on Dec. 2 in its community hall. The 7 p.m. event at the temple, 1994 Lake Drive, Casselberry (Orlando area) will begin with a reception, followed by a welcome speech at 7:45 by Dr. Aravind Pillai, chairman of HSCF.

Thereafter, Florida Melodymakers group of Satish Ankalikar, Naeem Abrahani and Geeta Rohatgi from Tampa will present a musical program.

Dinner and donors appreciation will be between 9 and 9:30 p.m. with the concert resuming to end the banquet.

Tickets are $25 per person, including dinner and musical program.

For more information, call (407) 805-0405 or (407) 718-8733, e-mail or click on  


Starting in January 2006, Khaas Baat will introduce an online directory of business services on our web site at Contact us to place your business listing for six months or one year.

For details and rate information, call (813) 758-1786 or e-mail



About 4,300 devotees attended Annakut Diwali celebrations on Oct. 30 at the BAPS Shree Swaminarayan Mandir in Tampa.

The Diwali program included day-long Annakut Darshan, hourly aartis and a special Dhan puja in the afternoon. A grand Mahaprasad was served after each Aarti. In the evening, there was a magician and entertainment especially for the children followed by a spectacular show of fireworks later at night.

Several devotees, both young and old spent over a month planning and preparing for the Annakut. The temple was transformed with light displays, lanterns, colors and spectacle. The breathtaking display included cascading waterfalls in front of the altar of beautifully adorned idols. “Annakut” translated means mountain of food. Thousands of vegetarian food dishes especially prepared for the occasion were artfully arranged in tiers and offered to the Lord in the spirit of devotion.

On another side of the room, traditionally decorated huts displayed the programs, activities, and pictures from the Bal and Balika sabha or youth groups.

The community was especially proud as they were celebrating their first Diwali in this new 30,000-square-foot multi-story temple which had opened in April. It is the largest BAPS temple in the Southeast United States. The temple offers a prayer room, bookstalls, offices, kitchens, conference rooms, and more. Cultural programs, music classes and youth-related activities are held regularly.


Damages to the Hindu Temple in Tallahassee are estimated at more than $750,000.

A fire destroyed the Gujarati Samaj of Tallahassee Hindu Temple on the early morning of Nov. 3. The Hindu Temple, which spans more than 7 acres, was on 9100 Apalachee Parkway. Members of the Indian Association were at the temple until 8 the previous night celebrating Diwali.

According to reports, the fire was first noticed by a passerby at 3:41 a.m. Six Tallahassee Fire Department trucks and three volunteers units attempted to save the temple, but they were too late. The fire had burnt down practically the entire building. All that was saved was a wall, which was bulldozed the next day. Investigators are still searching for the cause of the fire, which gutted the 17-year old building. Damages are estimated at more than $750,000.

To make matters worse, the annual Diwali celebration offering Indian food, children’s raas, garba and folk dance performances was on the verge of being cancelled until the Leon County School Board heard of the dilemma and stepped in. It offered Swift Creek Middle School to host the program at no cost, and the show went on as scheduled on Nov. 4. It turned out to be a great success, according to organizers. The Tallahassee Indian Association, which consists of more than 110 families, gathered together in unity to show support. In all, about 400 community members were in attendance.

If you would like to donate for rebuilding the Hindu Temple, send an e-mail to the Gujarati Samaj of Tallahassee at

White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card addresses the crowd at the White House Diwali celebrations as Dr. Sampat Shivangi of Mississippi, left, Dr. Akshay Desai and Joseph Melookoran look on.
Story provided by Dr. Akshay Desai

President George W. Bush’s Chief of Staff Andrew Card lit the traditional lamp Nov. 1 in the Old Executive Office Building in honor of Diwali. Card compared the lamp of Diwali to the Statue of Liberty, both symbolizing freedom. Also addressing the event were Dr. Akshay Desai of St. Petersburg and Joseph Melookaran of Kansas, both members of the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

“Now that Diwali is being celebrated in the White House, at a time when U.S.-India relations are blossoming to their full potential, and the Indian-American community is going from strength to strength,” Desai declared with a flourish, “it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.”

The CEO of the Bay-area based American Geriatric Care looks forward to the proposed visit of the President and First Lady Laura Bush to India early next year. Diwali, which represents the triumph of good over evil, has particular resonance for the United States and India, which have joined forces to fight international terrorism and nuclear proliferation, said Desai.

Also in attendance were Florida’s Dr. R. Vijayanagar of the Indian American Republican Council, Ash Jain, special assistant in the State Department’s Bureau of Arms Control, Prakash Khatri, an ombudsman at the Department of Homeland Secretary, Rajen Anand, former official in the Clinton Administration, Dr. Sudhir Parikh, president of the Federation of Indian Associations, Piyush Agrawal, member of the Census Advisory Committee, and Suhag Shukla of the Hindu American Foundation.

Story provided by Safari Ventures

When a family has a reunion, there are many locations, exotic, adventurous and beautiful from which to choose. For Dr. Chetan and Sangita Desai, with family in Clearwater, California, St. Louis and India, the destination was Africa and the combination of beauty, luxury and personal service made a lasting and cherished impression.

People have an outdated impression of Africa as a place for rugged adventures and primitive accommodations. But after consulting with Safari Ventures tour directors, Desai began to believe his dreams of seeing Africa with his family were possible – and affordable. The challenge was to coordinate the schedules, departures, arrivals, sites of interest and special dietary needs.

The Desai reunion began in East Africa at the site of the world’s largest animal migration, the famed Serengeti Plain. The next stop on the fully guided tour was the Ngorongoro Crater, one of the wonders of the world, with a protected ecosystem that permits its visitors to get amazingly close to animals in their natural habitat. The majesty and expanse of the crater surroundings is matched only by the beauty and blueness of the skies.

After a flight to Johannesburg, South Africa, the Desais were treated to a tour of the famed gardens, followed by a visit to the township of Soweto, where the back of apartheid was broken and the site of Nelson Mandela’s home.

Then, the family traveled to Zambia to see yet another of the world’s natural wonders – Victoria Falls. They stayed and celebrated at the Zambezi Sun, a destination where you can take river and walking tours with the amazing Falls as the center stage.

Near the Falls, the Desai family interacted with the local population, escorted by their college-educated guide, Obe Springto, an experienced naturalist to the famed Mukuni Village.

The next stop was the beachfront of Durban. The coast boasts the Indian Market, a “must-see” for anyone who enjoys an assortment of textiles, jewelry and crafts at bargain prices.

The Desais ventured on to the wine lands region of South Africa to the famous Stellenbosch vineyards to see firsthand the art and science of making world-class wines. They were treated to a luncheon (vegetarian cuisine throughout the tour) in an outdoor setting.

Cape Town was the final destination for the Desai family. Included in the package was a cable car ride to the top of Table Mountain, a drive to the Cape Peninsula, where the Indian Ocean meets the Atlantic, a tour of the Victoria and Albert waterfront and other attractions.

For travel to Africa, call Mahesh Patel or Niru Patel toll-free at 1.888.341.3300 or visit on the Web.

Gotham Chopra


Gotham Chopra is everywhere. He really is!

The son of motivational speaker and author Deepak Chopra barely has a moment to himself. Sometimes you have to wonder how he finds the time, inspiration and the inclination to dabble in not just spirituality (like his father, of course!) but also news, youth, conflict resolution and culture.

Here’s an example, just to set up the scenario for one of the “most powerful and influential” South Asians worth watching, according to Newsweek’s March 2004 issue.

Chopra and a close friend Vikram Chatwal co-created K Lounge – a Kama Sutra bar and lounge in New York City. A tribute to the ancient art of the Kama Sutra, K has a dimly lit, red velvet bar area and an Indian-themed décor of golden elephants, ornate wall carvings and painted vistas. “Vikram and his family have been involved in the hotel/bar business for quite sometime now and when they had a space open up in NYC, he asked my sister Malaika about it,” says Chopra. “About two years, we kicked off the K Lounge and we are definitely interested in expanding the concept globally.”

The 30-year-old also is the president of development for Gotham Studios Asia, the largest comic book studio in India. “It’s a company co-founded by my father and Shekhar Kapur,” he says. “We have partnered with a company that is the largest publisher of comic books in India. We have built a studio in Bangalore where we have 30 artists who are working to create Spidermans of India for the rest of the country.”

And that brings up Chopra’s current favorite assignment for Current TV, a new television network co-founded b y former Vice President Al Gore, which was launched in August. He serves as producer, reporter and host for a wide variety of programs, including “Current Soul.” The Current assignment is merely a continuation of the vast experience Chopra gained working for Channel One News. As anchor, he reported from Israel, Gaza, Egypt, China, India, Pakistan, Russia, Mexico and the U.S.

Chopra has interviewed a wide range of global leaders – from President Bush to the Dalai Lama to associates and foot soldiers of Osama Bin Laden. He has hosted events as diverse as the Pope’s pep rally in St. Louis to the action at the 50-yard line at the Super Bowl.

How did the Current TV assignment fall into his lap? “During the 2000 U.S. presidential campaign, I had the fortune of meeting Al Gore,” he reminisces. “A few years after the election, he called me up and asked if I was interested in joining the TV channel. When the former vice president of the United States asks you to join in his endeavor, it’s an honor. Al Gore wants to democratize television. We have 150 people working for Current TV right now. He has proved that you don’t need to work for a television conglomerate.”

Chopra admits that he does miss the global journalism beat. “I began to get exhausted with it though,” he says cautiously. “I was doing the same thing and frankly, the refugee camp situation around the world was getting worse. However, I am trying to stay active by working with different charitable organizations.”

His 2002 book “Familiar Strangers” is a chronicle of travels and encounters at the frontlines of areas in conflict and transition.

Chopra, who also has written a novel “Child of the Dawn” in 1996, admits he is penning another one without giving any further details. He also is excited about “Swindle,” an indie feature he has written and hopes to produce next year.

Last but not the least, we were curious to find out if his name used to be spelt as Gautam and not Gotham. “Indeed, I used to be Gautam but when I started working on television, people couldn’t pronounce it correctly,” he says. “My father asked me, ‘Why are you so attached to Gautam?’ ”

And the rest, as they say, is history. Besides, what’s in a name?
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The INDOUS Chamber of Commerce’s annual Thanksgiving Day dinner benefited 134 migrant worker families living in the Dover area.


With a Community Outreach Program that has now become an annual tradition, INDOUS Chamber of Commerce (, once again this year, stretched a helping hand with member-sponsored dinner certificates to 134 migrant worker families living in the Dover area of Hillsborough County, enabling them to purchase a sumptuous Thanksgiving Day meal.

The migrant families that benefited from this INDOUS initiative represented a small section of a vast agricultural community that is characterized by their nomadic existence – traveling long distances from their homes in Mexico, by road, in vehicles that have seen better days, and living in fairly squalid conditions in portable homes provided by the hiring farmers for the duration of their farm engagement and then uprooting themselves, along with their families, and moving on to the next farm that needs their services, possibly hundreds of miles away. Their lifestyle, combined with and resulting from their dire poverty, leaves these families very few choices for doing anything special for the holidays.

On Nov. 17, a team of INDOUS members and their families arrived at Dover Elementary School armed with, in addition to the dinner certificates, loads of goody bags containing an assortment of candy and cookies. After a mini-feast of chips, cookies, candy and fruit punch, Kalavatiben Patel handed out the dinner certificates to each attending family and the goody bags to each child.

As the year draws to a close, and we prepare for the many holiday celebrations, the Community Outreach Programs that INDOUS participates in underscore the organization’s commitment to its close involvement with the mainstream of Tampa Bay area community.

“Toys For Kids” Drive

During December, INDOUS is organizing a “Toys For Kids” Drive in partnership with the Brandon area YMCAs to benefit the migrant worker community in the Riverview area of Hillsborough County.

INDOUS plans on buying toys costing between $10 and $15 for children ranging from infant to 12-year-old with contributions raised through the drive.

To make a contribution of $10 or more for one or more toys for a needy child, call Kavita Marballi at (813) 767-3538.
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Mental Health Column

It is time for the Tampa Bay community to have a forum where voices can be expressed, respected and heard. This column will provide just such a corner. In time, I hope there will be enough interest generated when you, the reader, will begin to request certain topics of discussion.
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Send your questions and concerns

Check out the recipes for Alubukhara wala Lauki Kofta. The combination of bottle gourd and dry plums (Alubukhara) sounds unfamiliar, but it does taste exceptional. The gravy of tomatoes and basil compliments the complex flavor of the croquettes. Read Story

Youth Highlights And Column
The theory of multiple intelligences (MI) was first proposed by Dr. Howard Gardner, a professor of education at Harvard University, in 1983. The paradigm proposes that the traditional view of intelligence, most often based on Intelligence Quotient (IQ), is too limiting. Instead, Gardner suggests that there are multiple types of intelligences that humans possess. The current MI model distinguishes nine specific intelligences.
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