From the builders of some of America’s earliest railroads and farms, to civil rights pioneers, to digital technology entrepreneurs, Indian Americans have long been an inextricable part of American life.
Beyond Bollywood: Indian Americans Shape the Nation explores that rich heritage and the diverse contributions of Indian immigrants and their descendants in the United States and the Pacific Northwest.
Making its Northwest premier at MOHAI, Beyond Bollywood uses photography, artifacts, and audio stories to tell a uniquely American story. The exhibition was created by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center and the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) and is presented in Seattle by MOHAI.
Dr. Amy Bhatt, co-author of Roots and Reflections: South Asians in the Pacific Northwest, curated MOHAI’s locally focused addition with insight provided by the museum’s Beyond Bollywood: Indian Americans Shape the Nation Community Advisory Committee. The exhibit’s presentation at MOHAI also includes a look into the Northwest’s Indian American community, highlighting key moments in our region’s history and compelling stories of Northwest Indian American pioneers.
Indian Americans have been part of this region for over a century, though their history is often underrepresented. Bellingham’s farming communities in the north, the growing cities of the Eastside, Kent in the south—all have stories of struggles and success, exclusion and acceptance.
Today, one out of every 100 Americans traces his or her roots to India. From Seattle and Silicon Valley to Smalltown, U.S.A., the lives and stories of America’s 3.3 million Indian Americans are woven into the larger story of this nation—and have shaped what it is today.
Anu, Harish, and Manu Bharti pose outside their home in North Seattle in 1990.
The Indian American community has grown in the Puget Sound region for the last 120 years. Cultures from across the Indian subcontinent are reflected in this relatively small area, as waves of migration have brought people of different religions, languages, classes, and castes.
Wearing garlands presented by family members, Hemendra Momaya prepares to depart for the United States in 1965.
Washington state was one of the first points of entry to the US for Indian immigrants via Canada or by boat. Most Indian immigrants came with just one trunk or suitcase containing some clothing and a few items to remind them of home. Many left their families behind to make the 10,000-mile journey, with only hope for new and better opportunities in an unknown place.
Courtesy Hemendra and Hansa Momaya
The backyard wedding of UW graduate students Naresh Vasishth and Usha Puri on June 29, 1959.
The Indian American community here is dynamic. Puget Sound is home to first-, second-, and third-generation Indian Americans, and new immigrants arrive every day. They have integrated their experiences into the daily fabric of American society and expanded American culture through the introduction of new ideas.
This vital, diverse community is part of this region’s past, present, and future.
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Many thanks to all the individuals who advised and participated in the development of the Beyond Bollywood: Indian Americans Shape the Nation exhibit.
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