From Diwali to NaMaargam, Indian Culture Alive in San Antonio

Originally published on October 18, 2014 (Rivard Report)

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Image slider gallery photos by Kay Richter

Indian culture is on the menu in San Antonio during the next couple weeks, from the fast-growing Diwali festival downtown to the upcoming lively NaMaargam dance performances that mix a variety of Indian styles with classical dance, tai chi, and modern movements.

Diwali (Festival of Lights), also known as Deepavali, is a traditional Indian festival that recognizes the victory of good over evil. Diwali San Antonio began in 2009 and has since grown to become the largest city-sanctioned Diwali event within the United States. Adding to its significance, San Antonio has a sister city in Chennai, India, since signing a Sister-City Agreement in 2008.

Last year, the festival at Hemisfair Park drew a record 15,000 visitors from all over Texas with its combination of lights, dancers, market vendors, and food.

With Hemisfair under construction, the festival will be held in historic Alamo Plaza this year. The sixth-annual Diwali San Antonio festival will honor Indian culture and traditions from 5-10 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 1. Diwali is a free event co-hosted by the City of San Antonio and Anuja SA.

“The Diwali San Antonio Festival of Lights is a beautiful and spectacular example of the importance of Indian culture to the world and to San Antonio,” Mayor Ivy Taylor said in a press release. “It’s not only a celebration of the arts, but a reminder that we must always be mindful and dedicated if good is to be triumphant.”

Most notable among the festival’s features are the traditional dancers and singers that come out in full force. The celebration will include the releasing of lighted candles, known as diyas, into water, as well as a fireworks display over the Alamo. And there is a Parade of States, a showcase illustrating the diversity of different Indian regions.

Young women perform on stage during the 2013 Diwali San Antonio festival. Photo by Kay Richter.
Traditional Indian dancers perform on stage during the 2013 Diwali San Antonio festival. Photo by Kay Richter.

Food and handicraft vendors include Bawarchi Biryani Pointe, Mustafa, Bombay Chaat, Mela, Pavani, Sarovar, Masala Wok, India Palace, Mangos, and Mistify Ice Cream.

Participants of the festival are encouraged to use VIA’s Park and Ride service for the event. Information is available at www.viainfo.net. Check out Diwali’s Facebook page or visit www.diwalisa.com for more information about the event.

NaMaargam

Preceding the festival, NaMaargam, an Indian classical dance performance, will be held at the Carlos Alvarez Studio Theater at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts at 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 19.

The dance presentation offers a view of traditional Indian dance while interpreting various spiritual practices such as Reiki and Pranic healing in combination with classical dance, tai chi and modern dance. The infusion of these movements promises a creative synergy while still presenting a classical Indian dance performance.

The classical art form, Bharatanatyam, will be utilized during the dance to a pre-recorded soundscape.

“Dance and music, rhythm and words – all come together in a choreography that celebrates, experiments, exults and looks for the deeper meaning of the pure consciousness,” states the program guide. Tickets for the performance are $15 and audience members are encouraged to purchase theirs in advance. The organizers of the performance include Anuja SA, AtticRepMusical Bridges Around the World, and the Kalalaya Indian Performing Arts.

San Antonio Public Library

The San Antonio Public Library hosts traditional “Diwali Festival of Lights” performances in October that continue through November.

Visitors to the library will be able to enjoy a large variety of dance performances from various regions in India that combine dance, music, mythology, and storytelling. For more information about the program, participants can call (210)-207-2500 or visit mysapl.org.

Remaining dates for the performances are as follows:

  • Saturday, Nov. 1 at 2 p.m. – San Pedro Branch Library (1315 San Pedro Ave.)
  • Sunday, Nov. 9 at 1 p.m. – Central Library (600 Soledad St.)
  • Wednesday, Nov. 12 at 6 p.m. –  Forest Hills Library (5245 Ingram Rd.)