What is a Mela?
Melas originate from the Indian sub continent. The word Mela comes from the sanskrit “to meet” and is related to “milana” the verb to tune. It is commonly used to describe a large gathering of people celebrating artistic, religious or political events – a fair or a festival.
In the same way that many fairs or holidays in Europe would begin on the feast days of saints. Melas in south Asia have their origins in religious gatherings such as Diwali, Eid or Vaisakhi.
Celebrations form an immeasurably important part of the sub-continent’s fabric. Melas are feasts of sights, smells, sounds and tastes and will often feature bazaars, folk troupes, traditional and contemporary music and dance.
From the desert Melas of Rajasthan to the Baisakhi Melas of Bangladesh, Melas are held throughout South Asia. Audiences can vary in size from a few hundred to a few million; the Kumbh Mela held in four locations every twelve years attracts 2.5 million people over a 24 hour period.
London Mela – a brief history
In 2003, the first London Mela took place, supported by the Mayor of London and produced by Ealing Council. It attracted 60,000 people with more than 90,000 attending the following year – proving how successful and popular a pan-London mela could be. Now an established highlight in the capital’s cultural calendar, the London Mela is an artistically led celebration of Asian culture and creativity, inspired by South Asia and the Diaspora.
The London Mela is reinventing mela outside South Asia. It is one of the only melas in the country to commission new work, and it provides a platform for emerging British artists as well as bringing traditional and classical art forms to a wider audience.
Critically acclaimed, the London Mela features the best in classical music, British Asian urban artists, dance, comedy and cabaret, Asian-influenced street theatre and circus, and exhibitions. And with a third of the audience from non-Asian communities, it is a truly inter-cultural family event with something for every generation of every community.