Downtown Dallas Festival Needs Even More Joy

Highland Park couple backs growth of Texas-sized ancient Indian culture celebration

For one day each spring, visitors to downtown Dallas are transported to South Asia as dancers lead a colorful chariot through the streets of downtown Dallas. 

Thousands feast on free vegetarian cuisine, immerse themselves in Indian culture, and enjoy an evening concert.

It’s the Festival of Joy, and it has been observed annually in India, for more than 3,000 years. 

Dallas’ celebration is a little younger. The city’s Festival of Joy in Klyde Warren Park returned for its fifth year this spring and owes its origin in part to the leadership of Highland Park couple Atul and Ritika Vohra. 

“This is about trying to genuinely raise the awareness of a different lifestyle,” Atul said. “And also, there’s some Texan pride. We said, ‘Why would we be less than New York or LA or London?’ Everything’s bigger in Texas. We want this to be the biggest and best in time.”

The Vohras, who are part of the Krishna Consciousness Movement, explained that for the faithful, the day is a spiritual event. For everyone else, it’s a chance to immerse themselves in mindful living, as well as to sample Indian food, culture and music. Contributing to the Festival of Joy, Atul said, is the couple’s way of “making Dallas rich,” and was inspired by the work of families such as the Perots.

“These are the people that grew in the city, benefited from the city, and then gave back,” Atul said. “We’re not in a position to do anywhere near what they’ve done. But I think we can help in a little way, and we’re trying to do that.”

The Vohras, world travelers who lived in India, Greece, and Hungary before moving to Highland Park in 1997, now consider themselves “passionately Texan.” 

When they came to Highland Park, Atul said, they may have been the first or second Indian family in the neighborhood.

Today, the Vohras are proud of how Dallas has blossomed. Years after their daughters left Armstrong Elementary, they’ve chosen to stay in Highland Park. “We love the neighborhood. We love the city, and we are trying to give back to the city,” Atul said.

Dallas’ Festival of Joy began in the streets around the Radha Kalachandji Temple in East Dallas. Seven years ago, the Vohras and other community leaders helped bring the celebration to downtown Dallas. 

“The future goal is that really Dallas adopts us as a spring tradition,” Atul said. “It’s something that happens every spring, and everyone is looking forward to it.”

This year’s festival was made possible by the efforts of about 435 volunteers. The event was presented by Dallas’ longest-serving vegetarian restaurant, Kalachandji’s.

Future additions could include a serious discussion with a leading thinker, a drone show, and a strengthened connection with the sport of cricket.

“I think in today’s world, people are lost,” Ritika said. “They need that moral, ethical, sustainability, compass, and I think it just hasn’t occurred to them that there is an alternative way of doing things.”

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