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A Riot of Sound and Color at Holliston’s Annual Diwali Celebrations

Text from Lakshmy Raman; Photographs by Vijay Hanumolu

The Sam Placentino Elementary School on Woodland Street was unusually abuzz with activity on last Sunday morning as men, women and children dressed in bright, beautiful attire made their way into the school — the venue of the 8th annual Diwali celebrations of Metrowest of Holliston Indians (MOHI).

Diwali (pronounced “de-VAH-lee”), is the Indian festival of lights, and is celebrated to signify good triumphing over evil and ignorance. It’s a time when the Hindu goddess Lakshmi (the goddess of wealth and prosperity) blesses your home. It is also a time to decorate homes with lights and lanterns, make beautiful designs called ‘rangoli’ on the floor with colored powder, and most importantly, for friends and family members to meet, share gifts and ‘mithai’ or desserts  The festival is not limited to India and is celebrated across the world. It is, in fact, an official holiday even in Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Singapore, Trinidad and Tobago, Myanmar and Fiji — just to name a few. And in Melbourne, Australia and Leicester, England, there are fireworks and street festivals!

The Holliston Indian-American community has been conducting its Diwali festivities in the Sam Placentino Elementary School since 2014. The school authorities have been extremely supportive of this wonderful celebration. On November 17th, this year, more than 300 people attended and participated in the event and were privy to a wonderful array of songs and dances – some traditional classical and others set to Bollywood music. Amazing talent was on display with children of all ages to adults giving delightful performances. The cafeteria was transformed into a magical place with the stage bedecked in bright pink and gold curtains, twinkling lights on the walls, handcrafted diyas (earthen lamp holders) and a stunning Rangoli surrounded by garlands.

Anne Louise Hanstad who attended the event this year shared her delight: “It was an absolutely beautiful, joyful experience. We were stunned by the range of performances — from classical Indian dances to those that were a fusion of contemporary hip hop and Bollywood. And the costumes were breathtaking. But what was most impressive was to see such broad participation — from the smallest of children to many adults in the community. It was an amazing cultural celebration and we will absolutely attend next year!”

Alison Quinan, who teaches piano and was invited by one of her students, commented, “I found myself wanting to learn how to do the dances because they were so graceful and I love the story telling with which the movements are infused. Thank you for creating the opportunity for me to see this performance.”

Stephanie Golub-Simon, whose daughter has been a participant since 2014, looks forward to the Diwali celebration each year. She says, “The performances are wonderful, and the outfits are beautiful and vibrant. We have come to learn that these dances are integral part of Indian culture.”

The Holliston High School Honor Society students also play a key role in helping the organizers of the event. From manning the entry tables to keeping young children engaged with craft activities and helping with food arrangements (yes, delicious Indian food is part of the festivities), they immerse themselves in the event. Some students participated in the dances and yet others wore traditional Indian clothes. MOHI also supports charitable organizations and included Saheli that works to empower South Asian women and families in its celebrations last year. This year, it supported Chinmaya Mission that runs a Children’s school and soup kitchens and provides medical support to those in need.

Rukmani Vaidyanathan, visiting from Mumbai, India, truly enjoyed the event: “It’s a heartwarming experience coming to MOHI celebrations. It feels like a family, home away from home. They have something for every age group, a true celebration for all.” 

This annual Diwali celebration is a small way to come together as a community and celebrate the culture and traditions of India. So, what are you waiting for? Join us next year for Holliston’s Diwali celebrations – come dance, sing and celebrate the victory of good over evil.

The Publishers

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