Greater Boston celebrates Diwali — Video and gallery

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NEWTON – Newton South High School transformed Sunday evening into a colorful, energetic festival celebrating the Indian “festival of lights,” or Diwali.

Although globally celebrated Nov. 10 and 11 this year, the United India Association of New England (UIANE) held its annual community-wide event on a weekend to encourage family participation. The festival dates adjust each year to align with the new moon of the Hindu month Kartika, which normally falls between mid-October and mid-November.

“Diwali is the biggest festival in India,” Dr. Neela Gandhi, president of the association, said. “It’s celebrated throughout India by lighting diyas, or candles, in the homes. It really is to illuminate the home and take away darkness and evil.”

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Traditionally, the five-day festival is also celebrated with fireworks, well-wishing and the exchange of gifts and sweets, Ghandi said. In celebrating the victory of light over darkness and good over evil, participants honor the Goddess Lakshmi – the goddess of wealth and prosperity – through “puja,” or prayers.

The association has promoted Indian culture and heritage in the New England for more than 30 years. In addition to Diwali celebration, UIANE also hosts a potluck picnic, a health fair and the Indian spring festival of Holi. Diwali is the largest event, and is always open to the broader community.

Dozens of acts performed in the high school’s auditorium, from hip-hop Bollywood acts to traditional Hindu dancers – and even a fashion show by the youngest children. The hallways burst with women in flowing dresses and extravagant makeup, vendors selling jewelry and sarees, and the scent of vegetarian Indian fare catered by Walnut Grille Restaurant.

The Indian community of greater Boston has boomed in the past 15 years, with a 65 percent increase in Indian residents since 2000, according to U.S. Census data. Cambridge, Shrewsbury, Quincy and Lowell follow Boston in housing the largest Indian populations in the state, according to the 2010 census.

Contact Kara Bettis at [email protected] or on Twitter at @karabettis


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