Arts and Entertainment

Slideshow | Festival of Light: Snoqualmie's Indian community comes together with Diwali night of heritage

Dressed in bold-colored saris, Ponni Elango and Hemaletha Vaddi drape a garland over the small statue of Ganesh, Lord of Beginnings, then set a row of tangerine-colored roses. Two LED candles blink in front of the Hindu deity, and one real oil candle outshines them.

“We want the light,” Elango explained. “Diwali is full of light.”

Called the Festival of Light, Diwali is an important holiday for four different religions and many peoples in the Indian subcontinent. Elango and Vaddi’s preparations paved the way for a night of dance, music, feasting and tradition at Snoqualmie Diwali Night, held Saturday, Nov. 12, at Si View Community Center in North Bend.

Public celebration of Diwali in the Valley dates back about five years. The party is not put on by any group, but is a get-together aimed at connecting Snoqualmie families with similar roots.

In India, Diwali is a traditional family gathering. The day was officially observed on Wednesday, Oct. 26. But local celebrants, mostly families from Snoqualmie Ridge, meet as a group to help connect their community and pass on important traditions.

“A lot of these kids haven’t seen the traditional way of celebrating,” said father Srini Anand. Snoqualmie Diwali Night helps young people “understand the culture, appreciate the cultural differences between what we see here and we brought back in the country,” he said.

“Pretty much all my relatives were born in India, except me and my brother,” said Hari Rathman, age 10.

Rathman explains the basic premise of Diwali: “Good vs. evil, God killed the demon.”

On the walls, bright pictures represent clay lamps, or diyas. The lamps banish spiritual darkness, and are symbols of good triumphing over evil. During Diwali, Indians exchange sweets, light fireworks and wear new clothes.

Bright women’s saris and men’s sherwanis were on display in a rainbow of hues.

“We put on all the colors,” Elango said.

Rathman and friend Aachin Dev, 9, were dressed in western-style plaids, about to dance Bollywood-style as part of The Groovy Boys, one of a dozen Snoqualmie Ridge performance groups who have been readying their rhythms for the last two months.

The songs and dances performed at Si View come from across India.

“You’ll see different songs in different languages,” said Vijeth Shetty, deejaying for the night and putting the Si View speakers to the test with thumping dance music.

There was also a big potluck feast, with Indian specialties, desserts and chai tea.

The night included a children’s fashion show, “Best Lady” game and an open dance floor. As the dancing begins, emcees exhort the crowd to cheer louder, and to come together.

“The Diwali spirits are already here,” Anand said.

• You can learn more about Diwali at http://www.diwalifestival.org/

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