Mela is a Sanskrit word meaning 'gathering' or 'to meet' or a Fair. It is used in the Indian subcontinent for all sizes of gathering and can be religious, commercial, cultural or sports. In rural traditions melas or village fairs were (and in some cases still are) of great importance. This led to their export around the world by south Asian diaspora communities wishing to bring something of that tradition to their new countries. The Kumbh Mela, held every twelve years, at Allahabad, Haridwar, Nashik and Ujjain is one of the largest fairs in India, where over 60 million people gathered in January 2001 , making it the largest gathering anywhere in the world.
In modern usage outside South Asia it has become a term that shows widespread diversity of interpretation, just as has been the case in South Asia. One can find a Nepalese mela in the USA or a Bengali mela in London. For many it is a wider intercultural (though mainly Asian) festival incorporating music, dance, food and other aspects of mainstream culture. Since the 1980s an increasing number of melas have regularly been held in larger towns outside south Asia, especially in the UK and North America. The larger melas tend to be those with larger ethnic minority populations, but many melas are held in communities with small South Asian diasporas. Community ownership of these melas is important to the south Asian communities who see them as opportunities to share their cultural heritage with the mainstream. They are opportunities for bridge building and community building and can perform a strong socially cohesive function. More successful outside-of-Asia melas tend to have a strongly diversified funding base with private/public/third sector collaboration. Public money is often spent on the melas. This reflects the mela organisers and public authorities joint conviction that, as in the sub-continent, melas are for everyone.
Aims of the Cardiff Multicultural Mela
To act as a showcase for the arts, particularly performing arts such as regional dance and music. To be a platform for local artists of all ages and cultures.
To further racial and cultural harmony by celebrating the cultural diversity of all of Cardiff's cultural and ethnic communities.
To advance general public understanding of ethnic and cultural values by providing an opportunity for exploration and learning about traditions, beliefs, art & music.
To provide a forum for business enterprises to exhibit and promote a wide variety of goods and services.
To organise other musical and community events.