Diwali, the Festival of Lights

Article by Divy Agnihotri, GPA Ambassador

Diwali (Deepawali), otherwise known as the Festival of Lights, is one of India’s most spectacular and significant holidays. Diwali commemorates the return of Lord Rama from a 14-year exile after defeating the demon Ravana and rescuing his wife Sita. The celebration, which seemingly falls on different dates every year according to the Gregorian calendar, lasts a total of five days which correspond to the Hindu lunar cycle. Each of the five days carry unique rituals and are illustrated differently dependent on region; however, the holiday’s underlying theme remains the triumph of good (light) over evil (darkness).

Though the United States boasts an Indian-American population of over 2 million, the festivals and traditions of the culture have not gained much prominent ground, less a few major cities. Philadelphia’s metropolitan area, which is home to over 90,000 individuals of Indian origin, has made it a mark to celebrate the heritage of one of its growing demographic sectors. The Council of Indian Organizations of Greater Philadelphia, Reading Terminal Market, Main Line Indian Association, and International House were among the prominent groups to celebrate Diwali 2017 in great splendor.

On October 11th, International House, one of Philadelphia’s premier hub for global arts, culture, and education hosted its Diwali celebration in the Ibrahim theater. Brimming with attendees from all backgrounds, the event was appropriately introduced by Greg DeShields of PHLDiversity. This was followed with a beautiful depiction of the Ramayana, accompanied by traditional dance and music. Guests also enjoyed a buffet of various Indian food and delights. The festivities closed out with patrons aggregating outside to light up the night with the help of sparklers.

On October 29th, the Council of Indian Organizations of Greater Forces joined forces with the Reading Terminal Market to put on its Diwali rendition. In its debut as site for such festivities, the Terminal Market seamlessly attracted the attention of nearly all visitors towards the various cultural programs. Whether it was the traditional mendi hand painting, professional cooking demonstration, or choreographed dance performance/lesson, the event offered something fun for all ages and communities.

Lastly, the Main Line Indian Association honored the holiday on November 4th at the Valley Forge Sheraton. With about 330 people in attendance, the family-friendly event made sure all were thoroughly entertained with prominent acts such as Shreeyash Palshikar (magician), the Temple University Bhangra group (dance), and DJ Ravi Jackson (music). Following the acts, guests were treated to a delicious catered dinner.

Holidays such as these are much more than merely celebrations of one group’s heritage, rather they are moments to appreciate the great diversity within a region. Philadelphia, without a doubt, is a city that is making strides to weave various cultures into its own.

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