D.C. Hosts Diwali 2021, Indian Festival of Lights (photos)

Hundreds gathered at the Burke Theater inside the U.S. Navy Memorial on Tuesday, Nov. 2, to celebrate the festival of Diwali.  Diwali, or Deepavali, a Sanskrit word meaning “rows of lighted lamps,” is a Hindu originated festival celebrated in India and by the Indian diaspora, that is also observed by Sikhs, Jains and Newar Buddhists.

It is India’s biggest and most important holiday of the year, lasting 5 days and is celebrated during the Hindu lunisolar month Kartika (between mid-October and mid-November). Diwali symbolizes the spiritual “victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance.” In India Diwali is seen as a renewal of life, when old lamps are thrown out and new ones purchased to illuminate windows and porches. Hindus believe that the souls of ancestors come to visit their homes on the new moon day of Diwali and the new lamps are thought to help the souls find their way to heaven. 

The event at the U.S. Navy Memorial in Downtown Washington D.C. included a lamp lighting ceremony, dance performances, and traditional Indian cuisine.  It was sponsored by Mayor Muriel Bowser and the Mayor’s Office on Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs. The emcee for the event was media professional Sonya Gavankar.

Mayor Bowser addressed the assembled via telescreen, proclaiming that “this year’s celebration is even more significant as we continue to rise from the past challenging times. We celebrate in the spirit of Diwali – the spirit that anchors us in hope and goodness and that embraces the less fortunate as our own.”

The District was represented by Ben de Guzman, the Director of the Mayor’s Office on Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs:  “I need your help to join us throughout the year in this spirit of Diwali to choose love over hate, and justice over fear. Will you join us?” 

Spiritual leader Sapna Pandya, and her 3 year old daughter Saria, lit the ‘diya’, the traditional Indian lamp.

Classical dances were performed by the Nrityanaad Academy of Kathak (Reston Va.); the D.C. based dance group Nootana; and Lori Clark of George Mason University.

Following the ceremony, guests feasted on chicken sekh kabob, vegetable pakora, vegetable samosa and aloo tikki.

You can view a slideshow of Jeff Malet’s photos from the 2021 Diwali Celebration in D.C. from the U.S. Navy Memorial by clicking on the photo icons below.


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