India’s yearly festival of lights, also known as Diwali, unites the many diasporas of India, regardless of religion or background. Often referred to as the “Indian New Year,” the festival celebrates the triumph of good over evil through gifts, fireworks and the release of lit candles, or diyas into the water.
For San Antonio, the Diwali Festival is a chance to celebrate the city’s growing Indian population while recognizing our sister-city relationship with Chennai, India. The free, family-friendly event attracts approximately 15,000 attendees each year, making it the largest city-sanctioned Diwali Festival in the country.
San Antonio’s Seventh Annual Diwali Festival will return to La Villita on Saturday, Nov. 14, for an evening filled with Indian food from local restaurants, Henna tattoos and Bollywood-style dancing. The event footprint includes the whole of La Villita and Nueva Street.
“In our city we are increasingly attracting immigrants who add to the diversity of our community and our workforce, it is important to understand that and learn about each other,” said Sherry Dowlatshahi, the chief of protocol for the City of San Antonio International Relations Office. “I just hope that our citizens from San Antonio open up their hearts to learning more about these wonderful cultures from far away. This is one way of having a flavor of India in your backyard.”
The event, hosted by local nonprofit Anuja SA, celebrates this year’s Diwali several days after Indian families celebrate the actual holiday, but it has been credited with bringing the history and traditions of India into the San Antonio community.
“The Diwali SA Festival allows people to learn about a culture that they may not be familiar with, while they are having fun enjoying the festivities,” said Kausi Subramaniam, president of Anuja SA.
The festival has helped strengthen the economic and cultural relationship with Chennai since San Antonio Mayor Phil Hardburger signed the sister-city agreement in 2008. Subramaniam noted that the festival and Anuja SA have since connected local businesses with several India-based companies like Indo-MIM. These companies are planning to move its business and its employees to San Antonio, a community that welcomes diversity.
Attendees can experience the culture firsthand during the “Parade of Nations,” a performance highlighting the various states of India through the colorful costumes and unique dances associated with each state.
Mayor Ivy Taylor will be present to welcome the crowds before the diyas are released onto the water, which further signifies the triumph of light over darkness. Colorful fireworks will be shot from the Tower of the Americas between 9 and 9:30 p.m.
There will be many local vendors including Archana Sarees, Ladlee Fashion, Mustafa Jewelry, Swati’s Henna, Rosy Henna Studio and Cosmic Glow by Aparna Vohra on site throughout the evening. The cultural event has grown to include out-of-town vendors including Singar Studio from Austin and Libra Lifestyle Trendz from Houston.
Festival vendors will have food, jewelry, clothing and other goods available for purchase on-site, although an unspecified number of vendors will take cash-only. The festival will run from 5 to 11 p.m. at La Villita on Saturday, Nov. 14. For more information on Diwali San Antonio, visit www.diwalisa.com.
*Top image: A woman dances at the 6th annual Diwali San Antonio. Photo by Scott Ball.