The Association of Indians in America (AIA-NY) hosted, what is considered the oldest and most renowned Deepavali celebrations at South Street Seaport on October 7th. In its 31st year year, the oldest Diwali mela attracted over 100,000 people from across the region.
Seaport, where the entire waterfront transforms into one gigantic mela with street foods, dancers and a huge fireworks display. This year thousands thronged onto the waterfront, tasting the Indian treats offered by vendors and getting their Diwali fireworks so far from home. There were special celebrity guests to keep them dancing including the British Indian pop star Jaz Dhami and playback singer Shilpa Paul.
“We invite all local communities to become a part of this mega festival,” said Gobind Munjal, president of AIA. “ Deepavali has become an important part of American life committing to AIA’s role in the community.” An important goal, he noted, is to engage the next generation so that the continuation of the organization is assured and several activities were introduced to keep them involved. AIA’s vibrant cultural committee headed by Divya Shah and Asmita Bhatia bring vibrant dance and music to the celebration – and draw in the crowds.
While the Deepavali Mela is one of the largest, there are several other celebrations across the tri- state area, including Diwali Melas, Durga pujas and Navratri garba and ras parties. Indian immigrants seem to have decided that if they had to leave India, they would carry India with them – raas, garba and dhols included! This is what being Indian-American is all about – preserving and celebrating their festivals and making them a part of the mainstream.