Diwali Festival of Lights Celebration

By Robert Bernstein

Diwali is the Hindu Festival of Lights celebration. Similar to the Jewish Festival of Lights called Hanukkah. A celebration of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance and good over evil. Such festivals are common in the dark time of winter. Diwali originated in the Hindu religion, but it is also celebrated by Jains and Sikhs and some Buddhists.

Here in the Santa Barbara area we were fortunate to have a big celebration at Goleta Valley Junior High on November 5. The event was sponsored by Santa Barbara Desis. “Desis” are the people of the Indian subcontinent: India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. “Desi” comes from the word “desh” which means “land” or “country”. As in “Bangladesh”. Here are my photos.

The celebration started at 3:30 in the afternoon with the serving of tea and appetizers, provided by Masala Spice restaurant in Goleta.

Here we were greeted upon arrival by these smiling young people.

Others posed in front of the official colorful Diwali banner.

The evening ended with a delicious vegetarian dinner, also provided by Masala Spice. I was impressed with their efficiency serving a huge crowd with multiple serving stations and managing to keep the food fresh and tasty!

Here people lined up at one of the serving stations at 7:30PM.

But in between, from 5:00-7:30PM was the heart of the program: The cultural performances. Starting with the lighting of the Diya Lamps by Madhu Kemani, Simar Gulati and Vandana Khare. Full disclosure: Vandana is a dear friend and hiking companion who invited us. You may remember Vandana back in the 1990s when she owned the kite store on State Street.

Many of the performers were children, especially earlier in the evening. These children got things going early on with their singing. They are Shaurya Chitnis, Ruhan Lad, Reva Lad, Manasa Nitin, Shlok Joshi and Ayush Chitnis.

This young man Jaivik Doshi combined the old and the new by doing a dance while riding a hoverboard!

These young women performed the Chikani Chameli Dance. Chameli means Jasmine flower, but it can also refer to a beautiful girl. The performers are Abagail Hines, Carys Davies, Finna Kargard and Samara Kusabhandran.

Soumyashree Aditya Ganguly performed this energetic solo dance, wearing a traditional Marathi style sari.

The Sur Pancham music group played several pieces. This video shows their final piece, which included all of the musicians: Anuj Purohit, Pritam Ganguly, Evelina McGary, Shreya Parikh, Srabani Dutta and Somnath.

Kavya Suresh is 16 years old and she has been performing in these events since she was a young child. She is also a member of the Santa Barbara Unified Student School Board! I had a wonderful conversation at dinner with her about her innovative and visionary ideas for education. Here was her solo dance performance.

The “Dancing Diyas” are Zoe Carlson, Kunjal Patel, Juhi Madan, Nancy Pujji, Savitha Rao and Shailaja Joshi and here was their performance.

Shushant & Aditi Mathur, Raj & Seema Rawat, Nilesh & Priyanka Mishra, Usha & Rahesh are the “Desi Rock Stars”. These couples performed their dances in pairs.

Dhara Solanki, Kavitha Vemuri, Shreya Parikh and Soumyashree Aditya Ganguly performed the Boom Paaris veil dance.

The organizers thanked everyone who helped put on the event before sending us on to dinner.
I should note that my videos show just a part of the cultural events of the evening. The organizers did an impressive job of keeping the show moving quickly and efficiently, starting and ending exactly on time!

If you want to see their video of the entire show, you can watch it here.

Be sure to keep an eye out next year for this wonderful celebration of life, goodness and wisdom!

Diwali Dance – Ria Rahesh and Saanvi Thattai 11/5/2022 20221105-119 from Robert Bernstein on Vimeo.



Written by sbrobert

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