Diwali celebration fills Pelham Art Center courtyard with light of dance and story

Words were effortlessly translated into art by the movement of dancers Saturday at the Pelham Art Center’s Diwali celebration. 

Vibrant dresses and the sound of bells created a scene that told the story of Diwali. A diverse group of people gathered to learn about and celebrate the festival.

Diwali is celebrated by Hindus, Jains, Sikhs and some Buddhists. Known as a festival of lights, it is centered around finding your inner joy and truths as well as exterminating evil and bringing light to the world around you.

The crowd at the art center was filled with many dressed in the traditional celebratory Diwali attire enjoying the event.

I have found Diwali to be a way for my kids who have grown up in this country to connect with their culture, and it is a fun celebratory festival with great stories and rituals that they continue to celebrate every year,” said Angali Chen, an attendee at the event.

The celebration opened with a dance performance by many young girls assisted by their teacher, Dr. Nalini Rau. Rau herself is a dancer, choreographer, educator and teacher. She opened each act by engaging the audience with various stories about Diwali. Each act communicated a different meaning of the holiday. The last dance was performed by Rau, who told her favorite story of Diwali, one about how the divine is seen as a great feminine force and is meant to inspire all to be great and destroy all aspects of darkness in their life.

Music brings joy into one’s life because it helps us express ourselves, and dance helps one express themself visually,” said Rau. “This is classical dance. Often classical Indian dances can be misnamed as folk art in this country. But really this art form that was performed today is older than ballet, is over 3,000 years old.” Rau emphasized the importance of allowing dance to bring one joy and help us “connect with each other and the future.” 

The Diwali celebration concluded with the painting of lights led by artist Sonika Gupta. Young kids gathered around tables with paint and little lamps to decorate, learning about the importance of light in relation to Diwali and what it means to find the light in your own life.

Indian culture is so full of the arts, whether it is dance or music or visual arts,” said Gupta. “So I really feel like what I am doing here right now is a great expression of the Hindu culture specifically, which celebrates light over darkness and good over evil and wisdom over ignorance as well.” 

“That’s really what this whole festival of lights is all about, which is one of the biggest aspects and celebrations of our culture,” she said. “So I am just hoping to really let people express their inner light through art and then gather light for everybody around them as well.”