“Exhibiting Culture” – DC Metro South Asians Celebrate Diwali in Unison!

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November 8, 2012

By Geeta Goindi

Leesburg, VA – If there is one thing that stood out in the Diwali celebrations at the Holiday Inn at historic Carradoc Hall, on Sunday, November 4, it was the coming together of the Indian and Pakistani communities to herald this auspicious festival which marks the triumph of good over evil, light over darkness!

November 8, 2012

By Geeta Goindi

Leesburg, VA – If there is one thing that stood out in the Diwali celebrations at the Holiday Inn at historic Carradoc Hall, on Sunday, November 4, it was the coming together of the Indian and Pakistani communities to herald this auspicious festival which marks the triumph of good over evil, light over darkness!

Models display the exquisite ethnic creations of Silk and Saffron by Lubna Shehzad (third from right) at the first annual Diwali Mela organized by Sanjeev Kumar of Angeethi Indian Cuisine and Silk Events and Catering Service, in Leesburg

Sanjeev Kumar, organizer of the Diwali Mela, told INDIA THIS WEEK that the core purpose of the event was “to get the whole community together, both Indians and Pakistanis. If you look around and see all the vendors, we have half from India and half from Pakistan”, he said.  “I don’t believe this celebration is only for Indians. We should all celebrate together”!

It was estimated that over 1,700 people attended the Diwali fest held for the first time at the Holiday Inn in Leesburg, VA.  “We were busy all day long”, informed the organizer. “I didn’t expect such a big turnout. We will organize it on an annual basis now”, he said.

At the venue, one whole room was devoted to food by Angeethi.There were 27 vendors exhibiting clothes, jewelry, mehndi, professional and humanitarian services. A cultural program featured over 30 participants, followed by a fashion show choreographed by Moni Gill where models displayed Sarees by Violet Fernandes and the ethnic creations of Silk and Saffron by Lubna Shehzad.

On catching up with festival-goers and querying them about their impressions of the Diwali Mela.  Kainat Waqar, who is originally from Pakistan and now lives in Leesburg, came with a group of friends.  About the event, she gushed, “it’s awesome”!  For Kainat, the highlight was India.  “It is representing India and India is beautiful”, she said.  “We love Indian culture, Indian movies”!

Moni Gill (left) and Violet Fernandes choreographed the fashion show at the Diwali Mela in Leesburg

Her friend, Victoria Abbasi of Ashburn, was attracted to the stalls; in particular, the clothes and jewelry caught her eye and attention!

Preeti Vanjani, founder and director of the Mudra Arts Center based in Sterling, told us: “I like the fact that so many people come together under one roof to celebrate.  We do a better celebration here than in India because we don’t come together like this under one roof.  We are so many miles away from India and yet we come together”, she stressed.

Models displaying Sarees by Violet Fernandes (second from left) at the first annual Diwali Mela organized by Sanjeev Kumar of Angeethi Indian Cuisine and Silk Events and Catering Service, in Leesburg

Mudra Arts Center is dedicated to providing Indian cultural enrichment through music, dance, performing arts, literature, and philosophy classes for all ages in the greater Washington area.  Now in its fifth year, Mudra has over 130 students and 18 teachers who impart instruction in Indian culture.

Being part of the local community, it was only appropriate for students of Mudra to participate in the Diwali Mela. Vanjani informed us that the intent was two-fold: students will perform in the cultural program and celebrate this auspicious festival.  “It is very important to teach kids about our Indian culture”, she emphasized.  “That’s what we do at Mudra.  We teach everything related to culture.  Next week, we are having a Diwali celebration at our school where kids will celebrate the Indian way”.

Children of the Mudra Arts Center, in Sterling, dancing to Bollywood film songs at the Diwali Mela in Leesburg

Sampada Apte, one of the teachers at Mudra, was charmed by the “Indian atmosphere” at the Mela, emanating the look and feel of India with kids performing and stalls displaying traditional wares.

Aditi, a 7-year-old student at McNair Elementary School in Herndon, was clearly fascinated by the mehndi adorning her palms by Heena, a professional mehndi and henna artist based in Manassas.  Her mother, Anitha Lohith, believed the Diwali Mela was “fabulous” insofar as it showcased the myriad traditions of India.

Gopika Lakshmi (left) and Akanksha Bharadwaj performed a Bharatanatyam dance at the Diwali Mela in Leesburg

But, she mentioned, “It’s a different celebration here” in the US.  “We don’t have so many festivities.  We have to create that environment at home and outside”.  Anitha believed the Mela served as a great platform to explore Indian culture.  “Kids will come to know about our culture and how people back in India celebrate Diwali which is always special”, she said.


Community Special by MYDOSTI.COM

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