Anita Ajmera served Rasmalai, a sweet Bengali dessert of cottage cheese balls in milk, to a steady stream of visitors at the Madhuram Sweets table. Meanwhile, Dimple Thaker from Paramus perused a number of colorful sarees at the next table OK Fashions. A few steps away, 6-month-old Secaucus resident Zaisha Shah grabbed at a red lollipop. And in front of the stage, a large crowd of people performed a traditional Indian stick dance.
Many people gathered in Buchmuller Park in Secaucus for a day filled with food, dancing, prizes, and celebration on Oct. 14 for Diwali Mela or Festival of Lights, an event organized by the Indian Caucus of Secaucus. In its third year, the six-hour event that began at 12 p.m. has grown in popularity and drew a steady stream of visitors throughout the day.
Diwali is symbolic of light over darkness, or the triumph of good over evil. It is a festival that brings together family and friends with traditional customs that are celebrated by Indians worldwide. An important Hindu festival, Laxmi Puja, which is the main praying day, falls on Nov. 13 this year and signifies the end of the harvest season on the Indian continent. Homes are often adorned with small clay lamps that are lighted at sunset.
“It is great that people in the city appreciate your culture.” – Ruchika Misra
“Beautiful,” said Rajesh Nagpar, founder and president of the Indian Caucus of Secaucus. “We have more people this year.” He credited the volunteers, organizing committee, municipality, mayor, council, Police and Fire departments, and Meadowlands Hospital for their support and collaboration with the event in helping to make it a success.
“Diwali is our biggest festival,” noted clothing vendor Pankaj Vandra.
“Indians need to celebrate their festival,” said Secaucus resident Bharat Bhavsar.
“Awesome” was the word of the day often used to describe the festival, as many shared the same sentiment, including Mayor Michael Gonnelli.
“It was awesome,” said Gonnelli. “The event started and the sun came out.” He wore a traditional orange kurta during his remarks, and noted that some of the most caring, and helpful volunteers have come from the Indian community.
“Awesome!” said 7-year-old Pooja Parikh about the day’s festivities. Her friend and Huber Street schoolmate Tanvi Saxena added that she enjoyed the dancing.
In addition to choreographed performances, children of various ages dressed in colorful sarees and kurtas gathered up on the stage and danced to the traditional as well as modern pop music throughout the event.
“It is great that people in the city appreciate your culture,” said Ruchika Misra. A volunteer for the nonprofit Art of Living, she handed out information about local meditation workshops. Misra also danced on stage to a “Happy Diwali Medli” along with others, including children from the Xchange development.
Thaker attended the event to watch her 12-year-old daughter Tara Shah dance in a performance to the Indian National Anthem or “Jana Gana Mana Adhinayak Jay Hai.”
“This is all representative of India,” said Thaker about the food, clothing, and dance. She bought a saree that included light teal, burgundy, and gold. She advised that buying a good saree is based on the type of material and colors.
“I plan to wear this at temple,” Thaker noted. Of the festival she said, “I loved it.”
Adriana Rambay Fernández may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.