Diwali festivals grow in US, from Disney to Times Square
The holiday of Diwali is starting to light up mainstream America.
Diwali is a festival of lights. It is celebrated by Hindus. It is celebrated by Sikhs. It is celebrated by Jains. And it is celebrated by others in India and other countries. It has long been observed in immigrant communities around the U.S.
But now public celebrations of the holiday are starting to pop up. They are popping up in places ranging from Disneyland and Times Square. They are popping up in parks and museums.
The Times Square event is the brainchild of Neeta Bhasin. He says that many Indian immigrants have found great success in the U.S. "But still people don't know much about India. I felt it's about time that we should take India to mainstream America and showcase India's rich culture, heritage, arts and diversity to the world. And I couldn't find a better place than the center of the universe: Times Square."
Bhasin came to the United States from India 40 years ago. He is president of ASB Communications. It is the marketing firm behind Diwali at Times Square. The event is now in its fourth year. It has drawn tens of thousands of people in the past. It's scheduled for Oct. 7. It will be held from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. It offers dance performances. It offers Bollywood singers. It also offers a bazaar of food, saris and other goods. And it will have a lighting ceremony.
Diwali celebrations are held throughout the fall. But the holiday's actual date is Oct. 19. It is also called Deepavali. It's an autumn harvest festival. It is held just before the Hindu new year. Celebrations include lighting oil lamps or candles called diyas. They symbolize "a victory of knowledge over ignorance, light over darkness, good over evil," said Bhasin.
There will be a Diwali celebration at Disney California Adventure Park. It is in Anaheim, California. It will include performances of traditional Indian dances. It will include a Bollywood dance party for guests. It's part of a festival of holidays at the theme park. The festivals reflect cultural traditions from around the world. The Disney festival begins Nov. 10. It runs through Jan. 7.
San Antonio, Texas, has one of the nation's largest city-sponsored celebrations of Diwali. It draws more than 15,000 people each year. The 2017 event is scheduled for Nov. 4. It will be at La Villita. It is a historic arts village. It will be its ninth annual Diwali celebration. It will have Indian dance. It will have entertainment. It will have food. It will have crafts. And it will have fireworks. There will be a release of lighted candles into the San Antonio River. That's along the city's River Walk.
New York City's Rubin Museum will mark Diwali with an overnight Ragas Live Festival. It will feature more than 50 Indian classical musicians. They will perform amid the museum's collection of sacred Himalayan art. The event begins Oct. 21 at 10 a.m. It continues all day and night through Oct. 22 at 10 a.m. Chai and mango lassis will be served. Visitors will have access to all the galleries. Pop-up events like meditation and sunrise prayer will be offered. Special tickets will be sold for the opportunity to sleep beneath the artwork.
Other places hosting Diwali celebrations include Cary, North Carolina. It is in Regency Park on Oct. 14. Flushing Town Hall in Queens, New York will hold a celebration. It will be on Oct. 29. The Seattle Center will host a celebration. It will be on Oct. 21. The Dulles Expo center in Chantilly, Virginia will celebrate on Oct. 7-8. And Memorial Park in Cupertino, California will hold a celebration. It is on Sept. 30.
The Ohio History Center is hosting a photo exhibit. It is in Columbus, Ohio. It is about the city's fast-growing population of immigrants. They come from Nepal, Bhutan and India. Their Diwali event is planned for Oct. 8.
Bhasin said Diwali's message is particularly timely now. "It is extremely important to be together and showcase to the world, not only Indians, but the entire immigrant community, to be together with Americans and to show the world we are one. We are all the same human beings," she said.