Flowers, lights and dancing added up to a wonderful start to a new year during one local group’s first ever Diwali festival.
The event was hosted by the Ridge Creative Center on October 25, thanks to the efforts Aeilushi and Paulomm Mistry who shared traditional decorations, dancing, and Indian food. Not only did they preview their culture, they also wanted everyone of all ages in the Bay Ridge community to come out and celebrate.
Diwali begins on November 7. Known as the Festival of Lights, it’s the start of a new year for the Hindu culture. The festival lasts for five days, and each of those days involves praying to different gods and goddesses. As Mistry explained, those who observe the holiday decorate with flowers, oil lamps called diyas and rangoli, which are colorful designs of rice flour, colored sand and flower petals, as well as fireworks and traditional dances. They also enjoy family feasts.
At the Ridge Creative Center’s event, children of all ages began by decorating the space with flowers, candles and their own rangoli designs. Throughout the night, more people showed up, created more designs, and danced the night away.
Everyone, including the young children, participated. Some of these dances included Garba, which resembles the circle of life. Mistry explained there is no choreography for these dances, and that it’s just a natural flow for everyone involved. During some of the dances, women held the lamps.
“We never danced together before,” said Mistry, adding, “It was all improvising and following and connecting with each other. This is how it works in a community; we are separate but we come together and we understand each other.
“Anyone can dance, younger or older, right or wrong,” she went on. “We’ll help the young generation and help them create that confidence.”
The night concluded with a feast, made by Aeilushi herself. Many in the room spoke about their own Diwali traditions. Although everyone’s tradition is slightly different, they all revolve around the same meaning — the victory of good over evil and brightness over darkness.