2012 Diwali Mela sets off with a bang!

Mr Jha, Govindji, Lara Calvert-York, Teresa Cox, Cheryl Cook-Kallio, Anu Natarajan, Manormaji, and Dr Japra

FREMONT: In the biggest celebration in three decades, FIA and the Fremont Hindu temple celebrated Diwali Mela on a grand scale. Thanks to the Fremont Hindu Temple, 2012’s Diwali Mela took place on October 27, and it appeared as if all of Bay Area had gathered to celebrate Diwali for a colorful and melodious evening. Thousands of devotees thronged Alameda County’s sprawling fairgrounds to greet each other and participate in a day filled with fun activities.

Everywhere people were smiling and laughing, enjoying themselves while celebrating the biggest Hindu festival of the year. The crowd filed through the Alameda County Fairground, stopping at booths along the way to try festive food and play games. Thrilled children rode a horse as it took them for a ride. Over four hours, fifty dance groups, composed of children, adults, and senior citizens, took the stage to wow the crowds with their beautiful dresses and dances.
Dr Romesh Japra, Chairman and Convener of FIA, highlighted the grand scale of Diwali Mela in his speech. He said that one of the key reasons for organizing the Mela was to help Indian-American youth learn their ancestors’ culture and heritage. He added that the holiday season begins with Diwali, which signifies the victory of good over evil, and that the Mela provides a festive opportunity to teach children about Indian culture.
Today, he said, ten thousand people participated, and numbers are growing. Dr Japra also said that the main message of Diwali Mela is to understand and emulate values from the Ramayana about relationships between brothers, fathers and sons, and husbands and wives.

A function on such a scale conveys this message of family unity to not only the Indian community, but to all of Fremont.
The day started with prayers to goddess Lakshmi and a special grand puja was conducted by priests from the Fremont Hindu temple. As the day continued, crowds surged, and all stalls had brisk sales and people were excited.
Young children participated in cultural programs and gave scintillating performances. Vijay Asuri of FIA coordinated and ensured a flawless program.
The Ramayana came to life with the Ram Lila performance. Participants wore colorful costumes and re-enacted scenes from the Ramayana.
Many local dignitaries and community leaders participated in the celebrations. Fremont Vice Mayor Anu Natarajan (running for Fremont Mayor), Cheryl Cook-Kallio, Pleasanton City Council member (running for Pleasanton Mayor) and Ro Khanna (former Assistant Deputy Secretary of Commerce in the Obama Administration) attended and emphasized the importance of cultural integration and the contributions of the Indian community. Ro Khanna also said that he hoped one day ‘Happy Diwali’ will be as common as ‘Happy New Year’ and ‘Merry Christmas’.
The highlight of the evening was a live, thrilling concert performance by famed international singer Harjeet Mehndi. He is the brother of Daler Mehndi and Mika Singh, also well-known singers. He had the crowd dancing to his hit numbers and sang songs ranging from movie songs to Bhangra tunes. His band brought down the roof with their gusto and fast numbers.
Finally, the Mela concluded with a round of colorful, beautiful fireworks. Letters lit up, spelling out “Happy Diwali”, and onlookers smiled at the beauty. The sky was set ablaze, and the visitors to the festivities looked up, basking in the glow of Diwali.

Ritu Maheshwari
India Post News Service

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