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Festival brightens the dying of the light

Trupti S, an architectural graduate student at the University of New Mexico who is from India, will be among the Diwali dancers. She is a professional dancer and dance instructor.
Trupti S, an architectural graduate student at the University of New Mexico who is from India, will be among the Diwali dancers. She is a professional dancer and dance instructor.
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During one of the deepest nights of the year, when even the moon doesn’t rise, the festival of Diwali celebrates the triumph of light over darkness, the victory of good over evil.

The India Association of New Mexico invites friends and neighbors to share one of its country’s most celebrated holidays, Diwali, also known as Deepavali, organizer Writu Tandon says.

Like many countries north of the equator, India celebrates as the sun retreats, family and friends draw closer, making and eating rich food and sharing gifts for good wishes of the new year, she says.

“We just want people to know that India is not just ‘Slumdog Millionaire.’ India is so much more than that,” she says of an Academy Award-winning movie that featured poverty and darkness. “India is the largest democracy in the world. The cultures of India are vast, but related. India is a peaceful, progressive nation. Come and see. Come to know India more.”

After all, one of the oldest civilizations in the world began in the Indus Valley, she adds.

In Hindu and other Indian cultures, Diwali celebrates an ancient story, the victory of Lord Rama over the evil Ravana, who has captured his bride, Sita. The lights of the festival symbolize his return and reunion with his beloved, Tandon says.

“Light becomes a symbol for knowledge, a symbol for hope,” she says.

Diwali, Festival of Light
WHEN: 5-7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 17
WHERE: National Hispanic Cultural Center, 1701 Fourth SW
HOW MUCH: $10 at Bombay Spice, Indian Palace, Rasoi, Taj Mahal and Taaj Palace

The upcoming celebration at the National Hispanic Cultural Center features the concentrated efforts of many members from the association, Tandon says. More than 4,000 people from India live in New Mexico, she estimates.

Devotional dances, where every glance, every wave of the hand and point of the toe must be perfect, are followed by folk dances, a Bollywood performance and a fashion show that features voluminous silk and golden saris, many embellished by hand, that cost thousands of dollars, she says.

In northern India, her family will be lighting lamps and candles and setting off fireworks for Diwali.

Women, there as here, will adorn their hands and feet with henna, create Diwali decorations and make food to welcome everyone to eat and celebrate a new year together.

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