SAN DIEGO, CA - Around 11,000 people attended the Festival of Lights organized by the San Diego Indian American Society (SDIAS) on Oct 17 at the Balboa Park here. The Indian tapestry is truly exquisite and it was well amalgamated in all its intricate layers into one festival. The festival comprised of myriad cultural events....
The two main events of the evening were: The doll festival—which took place for the first time on a large city-wide scale and the exhibition of 54 lamps, which are the replicas of original exquisite lamps from different eras and regions of India like Gujarat, Punjab, Kerala, Tamilnadu and Karnataka. Headliner of the lamp show was the ethereal 9 foot tall lamp from the Ayyappa Swamy temple from Kerala, indeed the tallest lamp in the collection. Lamps are symbolic of Surya (sun) and Agni (fire). They play a very important role in life in India. Nilu Bharadwaj who was coordinating the lamp exhibition told IJ “I am extremely happy that children get a glimpse of the lamp lighting ceremony, which is a quintessential part of Indian tradition.”
The doll festival, at the Mingei Museum at the Balboa Park, coordinated by Lata Sundar and, Deepa Prahlad— drew 2000 people , Indian-Americans and other ethnicities, who were mesmerized by the richness of Indian culture. One of the visitors Leigh said that “India is gifted with so many different traditions and cultures. It is truly an offering to their faith.”
Coordinator Lala Sundar said, “The festival was specifically designed to be an all-inclusive celebration of peace and harmony, breaking barriers of culture and nationality, appreciating diversity while integrating people from all walks of life.”
The doll festival also called Golu in Tamil, is all about raising our inner awareness. It is celebrated during the Navratri-nine nights. As a part of the doll festival beautiful handmade dolls reflecting divinity, incarnations, saints, world leaders, humans, animals, birds and insects were showcased displaying increasing levels of evolution, with those denoting supreme divinity or godhead placed at the top most level. One of the volunteers Akhila Gopal said “This event has brought the San Diego Indian-American community together, without discrimination of caste or creed.”
At the Festival of Lights, through the cultural events like dance, music, painting exhibition and Yoga sessions, creative energies surmounted the minds of the audiences and raised their spiritual levels. Musicians who performed were: Sudakshina Alagia, Rinku Verma who enchanted the audiences with melodious Hindustani music; Kiran and Nivi Saishankar enthralled the gathering with Carnatic ragas and Sumana Srinivas sang bhajans and lit the hall of the Mingei Museum with the power of divinity.
Apart from this there were also mesmerizing classical dance performances by Nilanjana Banerjee who presented the Odissi dance form; Meenal Kher Chakradeo—Kathak; Rohini Herur and Anvitha Soordelu—Bharatnatyam. The classical flute performance by Agastya Sridharan left the audience enchanted.
At the Organ Pavilion, dancers from various states like Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Gujarat, Punjab, Orissa, West Bengal, Jammu and Kashmir, Rajasthan, Haryana bedazzled the audience with spectacular, culturally rich, dance performances. The performances that stood out were the Rajasthan dance form choreographed by Shalini Param, and Goan dance form by Jonathan Bosco.
All the stage programs at the Organ Pavilion were coordinated by Hamid Daudani. Foods from various cuisines across India were also available. The event was sponsored by Union Bank and State Bank of India. The vice presidents from both organizations Kamaljeet Kaur and Sanjay Sinha conveyed Diwali greetings on behalf of their organizations to all present.
The festival was a tough task to pull off, but the volunteers and the organizers made it possible with their grit and determination.