London: Foot-tapping Indian film music provided the ambience as thousands of people enjoyed the colours and spices from the Indian subcontinent at the Leicester Belgrave Mela Festival, one of the most popular fixtures on the Asian culture calendar in Britain.

Known as 'Little India', Leicester has a large population of Indian and Asian origin, most of whom migrated here from Uganda in the early 1970s.

From a town where immigrants were initially not welcome, Leicester is now often hailed as a symbol of Britain's multiculturalism.

Leicester Mercury, a leading local daily, reported, "Indian music was blasted out across Humberstone Gate from the main stage, where dazzling dancers wowed the crowds. The Market Place was packed with people on Sunday as aromatic treats were fried up for the throng".

Guests from India included Rucha Hasabnis and Vishal Singh, who play the characters Rashi and Jigar in Star Plus TV series 'Saath Nibhana Saathiya'.

Festival spokesman Nishil Saujani said, "There were tens of thousands of people at least this year and it has been brilliant. Our actors from India were mobbed by the crowds like they were Hollywood stars."

"They had a great time and people all said it was a brilliant idea to invite them. The best thing was having such good weather and seeing so many smiling faces all around the city centre – you can't ask for more than that," Saujani said.

The Belgrave Mela is known for being the first event of its kind in the UK. The first edition was organised in 1982. It now attracts people from all over the UK, many travelling long distances to attend the celebration of Indian culture.

The event set the bench mark for dozens of similar summer festivals which began to take place in other major cities across the country. Described as a glittering mix of live music, dance, fashion and food, the unique outdoor one-day spectacular is also broadcast worldwide by BBC Asian Network.


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