Around the nation and in New York State, South Asian Americans celebrate Diwali, often known as the “Festival of Lights.”
One of the most popular holidays in South Asia is Diwali. On this day, Jains, Buddhists, Sikhs, and Hindus all gather together.
Mythologically, Diwali commemorates the Hindu hero Rama’s return to his hometown of Ayodhya following his victory over the demon king Ravana, when the people lighted rows of diyas, or clay lamps, to welcome him home. Many claim that this is the reason South Asians use diyas to decorate their homes at Diwali.
“But our hope through all this festival, celebrating them, through teaching them dance, through teaching the music and our culture, it’s the hope that they can pass it on to their kids in future and still keep this legacy alive of our culture and our traditions,” said Sujatha Sharath, the director of the Narthanalaya School of Arts.
Sharath considers herself extremely fortunate to be using dance to teach her kids about her South Asian culture. These pupils are getting ready for a Diwali dance.
“Diwali is a celebration of light above darkness, good, above evil, and the ability of humans to overcome anything that they put their mind to,” dance student Shruti Kamat shared.
For many of these girls, who are first-generation Americans, Diwali can be a wonderful opportunity to discover more about their cultural heritage. And how better to do it than with dance?
“Dance for me has been a way to really involve myself and learn more about who I am and my identity and my culture just outside of being American,” dance student Shreeya Gillela said. “It’s just about my heritage and where my parents also came from.”
Furthermore, there is much more to these gatherings than just dancing. In order to ensure that their children learn and appreciate the customs that have been passed down to them over the years, South Asians are also taking part in the rituals and prayers associated with Diwali.