Definitions

mela'nistic

Mela

[mey-lah]
Mela is a Sanskrit word meaning 'gathering' or 'to meet'. It is used in the Indian subcontinent for all sizes of gathering and can be religious, commercial, cultural or sports. In rural traditions melas or village fairs were (and in some cases still are) of great importance. This led to their export around the world by south Asian diaspora communities wishing to bring something of that tradition to their new countries.

In modern usage outside South Asia it has become a term that shows widespread diversity of interpretation, just as has been the case in South Asia. You can find a Nepalese mela in the USA or a Bengali mela in London. For many it is a wider intercultural (though mainly Asian) festival incorporating music, dance, food and other aspects of mainstream culture.

Since the 1980s an increasing number of melas have regularly been held in larger towns outside south Asia, especially in the UK and North America. The larger melas tend to be those with larger ethnic minority populations, but many melas are held in communities with small South Asian diasporas. Community ownership of these melas is important to the south Asian communities who see them as opportunities to share their cultural heritage with the mainstream. They are opportunities for bridge building and community building and can perform a strong socially cohesive function.

More successful outside-of-Asia melas tend to have a strongly diversified funding base with private/public/third sector collaboration. Public money is often spent on the melas. This reflects the mela organisers and public authorities joint conviction that, as in the sub-continent, melas are for everyone.

The Mela Festival Network is the networking organisation for melas in the UK and around the globe. It seeks to promote mela activities and provide support for mela organisers and initiate programmes in collaberation with Mela events.

http://www.londonmela.org/default.aspx?show=History

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