Additional writings by K.P. Singh may be found as Reflections of the Sacred in the Arts and Architecture

Original drawings of some of the images shown on this website are available for acquisition. Please contact KP for more information.

Celebrating the Asian Presence


The last five decades have seen an unprecedented influx of people from around the world and a large number of them from countries in the vast Asian Continent that today houses nearly half of the world’s population of over six billion people and two emerging superpowers, China and India, into the United States of America. We have witnessed a significant share of these Asian immigrants converging into the American Heartland in search of their dreams and opportunities. These immigrants represent many unique talents, rich cultural heritage and, a strong will to strive and excel in lands and places that are their new home.

These newcomers, until recently, remained unusually quiet; the full measure of their talents untapped. They are finally coming into the community mainstream and national spotlight as a population, exploring the power and potential of their ideas, passions, and proudly affirming their deep commitment to American ideals. At the same time, these recent arrivals to our shores remain excited about the deeply enshrined cultural associations and ancient traditions of their native lands, and are passionately engaged in creating private, public, and cross-cultural activities, opportunities, and environment for their preservation and continuation to benefit the future generations of Americans. Cities are promoting diversity as an attraction, a destination. Media, internet, and inter-continental travel is frequently spotlighting and introducing us to Asia as a Continent of incredible richness, diversity, and wonderful surprises.

The 2008 estimates put the number of Asian Americans in the U.S. at around 15.0 million, or roughly 5.0% of the U.S. population of just over three hundred million. Estimates place the largest numbers of Asians in the U.S. today at: Chinese (3.6 million), Filipinos (2.9 million), Indians (2.7 million), Koreans (1.5 million), Japanese (1.2 millions), and many other nationalities in smaller numbers. The Asian Americans in the U.S. represent many ethnicities, cultural groups, and faith traditions: Buddhists (3.0 million) Hindus (over 2.0 million), Sikhs (around 1.0 million), Baha’is, (160,000), Jains, Zoroastrians, and others. When one considers that there are Christians of many denominations (over 250 million), Jews (over 6.0 million), Muslims (over 5.0 million), diverse Native American, African, and followers of many other spiritual traditions, we can safely say that this makes the American spiritual landscape and cultural tapestry as one of the richest and most diverse in the world.

The Asian American population in Indiana has seen much growth during the last half a century. Today, some estimates put the Indiana’s Asian American population at near 100,000, or roughly 1.6% of the total State population of around 6.4 million. In Indianapolis, the Asian Indian population has grown from a few families in the 1960’s to nearly 7,000 families today. The Sikh American population increased from one or two to nearly 2,500 families in the same period. The largest concentrations of Asian Americans located in the Indianapolis Metropolitan area are: Chinese, Indians, Pakistanis, Koreans, Japanese, Vietnamese, Tibetans, Chins, and over 25 other Asian nationalities.

Their numbers in Indiana tell only a part of their story, especially when one dispassionately visits their contributions to our cultural assets, educational and research fields, science and technology, business and service sector, media and the arts, and our growing international image. The Asian ideas, cultural orientation, and work ethic often keep Asian Americans as an invisible and often ignored population and may have hindered the advancement of some of the best and brightest to the positions and rewards that they truly deserve. This has prompted the Asian American leaders to actively engage in shaking this image of being a quiet community and encouraging their members to mainstream their talents, energies, investments, culture, passions and commitments, and proudly participate in every walk of life, exciting service projects, and significant happenings in the communities where they live and work.

As a direct outcome of such effort and encouragement, Asian Americans are present at many community events, most recently at the annual Diversity Luncheon where the Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard honored several businesses that support, promote, and advance diversity in the City and at Governor Mitch Daniels’ Inauguration Ceremony at the historic Indiana State House.

The idea of re-creating the intimate spirit and familiar images from the countries of their origin began in earnest as soon as the Asians arrived in Indiana. Today, there are dozens of organizations and cultural groups, ethnic restaurants, places of worship, festivals and ceremonies that serve Asian Americans and they proudly share their culture with the entire population. To name a few: The India Association of Indianapolis (since 1970; celebrates Diwali, the Indian Festival of Light; The Sikh Education and Cultural Society (since early ‘70’s; celebrates Baisakhi, the famous Festival of Harvest in Punjab.

The International Center of Indianapolis (founded in 1972; promotes international interests and honors an International Citizen each year; The Indiana Nationalities Council (originally created as an advisory group to the International Center of Indianapolis in 1973; organizes the annual International Festival, attended by 25,000 people; The Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center in Bloomington, Indiana has become a major spiritual center due to the frequent visits of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The First MultiEthnic Indiana Conference, sponsored by the Office of Indiana Governor (2008;, spotlighted the ethnic immigrants in Indiana.

The Asian American Alliance (founded 1999;, with the express aim of promoting, advocating, and advancing Asian American interests, sponsors its annual signature events: The Race For All Races, Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, and The Asian Festival to interface with their friends from many Asian countries and central Indiana community and raise funds for minority scholarships. In addition, there are a number of schools, colleges, churches; civic, business, workplace-based clubs and private associations that offer dance and music instructions and competitions; ethnic celebrations by local and professionals, and performances by world-class talents in every major city in America. Each such initiative in its own way is acknowledging and promoting the Asian American presence in our midst and greatly enhances our own awareness of our diverse and wonderful ethnic inheritance.

It was a truly pleasant surprise to attend the Chinese New Year Celebration, The Year of the Ox, this weekend at The Clowes Memorial Hall on the Butler University Campus in Indianapolis, sponsored by The Eli Lilly Chinese Culture Network ( It was amazing to see the large gathering of Chinese Americans and their guests from many nationalities. All had come to celebrate the Chinese New Year and enjoy the great talents, pride, and bursting energy of the performers and organizers. The evening was a riot of color, festivity, and pleasant surprise. It was a symphonic orchestration of dance, music, drama, and spirit of an ancient culture. It was joyous and uplifting; timeless ancient richness and rituals had transcended into our cultural space and presented to us centuries and miles away from their origin; transporting our spirit to another time and advanced civilization; and dispelling unfounded stereotype and stimulating and inviting our minds and senses to learn more about each other.

As I sat through over three hours of beautiful dances, music, and cultural insights, I was struck by a joyful feeling of how far the dream of visualizing Indianapolis as a cosmopolitan cultural crossroads and welcome destination for people from around the world has come over the past 41 years since my decision to make Indianapolis as my home. Today, it is easy to imagine the history, heritage, and rich traditions that were once thousands of miles and certainly unfamiliar to most in the audience now receive a thunderous applause and find cultural resonance in the minds and spirit of all who come to attend these celebrations. It was a transcendent moment when the distant had become near and the unfamiliar something personal and cherished.

Yet we know that as Asian Americans, much like the ethnic and nationality groups before us, have a long emotional and cultural distance to travel to be fully integrated into American society and enjoy the fullest blessings of their opportunities and responsibilities. All such events: The Asian Festival, The Race for All Races, The Chinese New Year, The International Festival, Diwali, Baisakhi, and a myriad of colorful celebrations, religious festivals, interfaith gatherings, and exchange forums are important classrooms to learn about and from each other. They help us understand and expand our rightful place as a community within the mosaic of societal framework and peacefully engage in the pursuits of our dreams, creative urges, and happiness; our happiness being a key to unleashing multiple dimensions of our human potential. These celebrations affirm a basic right to express and nurture our deeply personal and inherent need to stay connected to our cultural anchors, spiritual heritage, and create opportunities to share our gifts, passions, and concerns with one another to build new bridges and walk towards each other in friendship and mutual respect as an affirmation of our shared humanity.

The spirit of excitement that radiates at these Asian American festive celebrations reinforces an all-important trust that there is no conflict in preserving the cultural and deeply personal facets of our being that make us who we are and our contributions to the American society in many ways and at many levels. Asians, much like others groups, offer many new language skills, fascinating arts, innovative ideas, family values and work ethic, experiences and approaches to solving our common problems, enhance our spiritual attractions, unique qualifications to serve as goodwill ambassadors to initiate trade, exchange, collaborative ventures, and create marketplaces for American ideas, products, and services to the countries of their origin. The recognition that all citizens and good ideas matter has been gradually evolving into a major cornerstone of our national and community policies and framework and is greatly enhancing our ability to excel in an intensely competitive global environment.

Our growing diversity, in its colorful splendor, creative and fascinating facets, is our new great frontier of opportunity before us. We must celebrate the presence, gifts, dreams, and spirit that each citizen brings to new lands and communities. As Asian Americans, we need to be partners in opening new doors, fully engage in realizing, enhancing, and advancing our individual promise, and put our assets to good use for our Nation to compete with other nations in this brave new interdependent global village that we share as a human family. The beautiful, diverse, and dynamic composite that is Asian American, must identify, introduce, and network our common and collective interests and struggles with other communities, cross the formidable thresholds yet awaiting to become a significant population within the one indivisible nation, and embrace and advance a united solemn spirit to further multiply the blessings of all Americans.

We know that, in the United States of America, unimagined dreams are possible. We must remember that dreams do not come to us; we have to imagine striving and trailblazing to fulfill our cherished dreams. The spirit of adventure has brought us here and we have come a long way over the last half a century. That makes our landmark celebrations and commemorations a true catalyst for greater friendly exchange. We are thrilled to witness this evolving renaissance of confidence and newly found vitality on the part of Asian Americans as a major triumph.

Kanwal Prakash “KP” Singh
Indianapolis, Indiana USA