The Silk Road Unity Festival

In late April I attended The Silk Road Unity Festival in Anaheim. Hosted by Muckenthaler Cultural Center and held at the Brookhurst Community Center and Park, the festival’s name is a reference to the Silk Road, an ancient trade route that stretched halfway across the world, connecting the East and West in trade.

All the beautiful traditional costumes and vibrant textiles everywhere were absolutely mesmerizing, and I admired how the festival not only set out to educate but also to celebrate all the diverse cultures, nations, arts, regional cuisines, and faiths along the ancient trade route, with countries such as Turkey, Syria, Japan, and China represented. 

Even though I don’t know that much about Syrian culture, I was incredibly moved by the “A Country Called Syria” exhibit, which showcased the history and culture of the country and its people through such things as photos, decorative items, fabrics, architectural books, and miniatures of traditional instruments.

As the war in Syria rages on, more and more of its cultural artifacts continue to be destroyed, making an exhibit like this all the more poignant. I commend those behind this important project for doing what they can to try and preserve their rich and beautiful heritage. It’s an incredibly noble effort, and they deserve much praise for what they are doing. 

I also enjoyed the exhibit by the Pakistani Art Center, which had gorgeous traditional fabrics, beautiful and intricate dowry bags, and colorful dupattas on display. A dupatta is an intricately embroidered shawl-like scarf that is an essential part of Southeast Asian women’s clothing. As for the dowry bags, a woman named Henna explained their significance.

As soon as a baby girl is born, her mother makes a dowry bag and sets out to fill it with beautiful, handmade clothing, which she later gives to her daughter upon marriage. The dowry bag and its contents are the mother’s way of showing how much she loves her daughter, who often moves away with her husband, never to see her mother again. 

The Silk Road Interfaith Unity Panel was another festival favorite of mine. The panel, many of them women, was comprised of faith representatives from Judaism, Hinduism, Islam, Zoroastrian, and Christianity.

The panelists discussed the importance of tolerance and diversity in religion and were quick to praise each other’s faiths and point out each religion’s unique contribution to the world at large. It was very inspiring to hear representatives from such diverse backgrounds show respect for one another and express admiration for each of the religions represented there that afternoon.

In addition to getting my name beautifully written in Farsi by a talented Persian calligrapher named Mohammed, I also got to enjoy some excellent music and dance performances. Worth mentioning is the lively Chinese dragon dance, the Punjabi dhol performance, an Indian traditional dance by darling Indian children, and the Syrian sword dancing.

But, a real standout for me was the musical performance by a Persian traditional ensemble, which included a gentleman on the santoor (a string instrument with strings stretched over a trapezoidal shaped box). It was especially fun to see a group of older women singing along and dancing to the group’s music, as it was clear the women relished hearing the lively folk music of their beloved native country. 

As someone who always delights in exploring different cultures, I’m so glad to have stumbled upon such a unique and inclusive event like the Silk Road Unity Festival. A success all around, the festival was not only an entertaining experience, but also an enlightening one, and it will indeed be interesting to see what they have in store for us next year. 

"The next generation find their roots in traditional and culture." - Dr. Rini Ghosh Ph.D (President of the Vedana International Cultural Center)