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Community, culture focus of Diwali

Nov. 10, 2012 @ 11:30 PM

HUNTINGTON — A 3,500-year-old tradition was alive and thriving Saturday evening at Huntington High School, where the Tri-State India Association celebrated Diwali, the Festival of Lights.

The event is one of the most significant festivals in the Hindu religion, with a celebration similar to that of New Years Day, said Deba Maitra, president of the association.

The actual day of celebration varies, as Diwali is centered on the Hindu calendar, occurring on the night of the new moon in the month of Kartik, which typically takes place between mid-October through mid-November.

Diwali is a five-day celebration, and the festival marks the third, and most significant, day of the holiday.

The first day is for prayer for protection from death, and the second day is a day of rest and relaxation to prepare for the third and largest day of celebrating.

The event is marked by traditional Indian food, fashion, music and dancing, which is displayed in a variety of performances and even a fashion show, which precedes an Indian vegetarian dinner.

Day four, which is the first day of the new year, is about celebrating the power of prayer, and the fifth and final day of Diwali is a day for strengthening the bond with siblings and appreciating "the simple joys in life."

Preparation for the celebration begins weeks, even months, prior to the celebration, and there is a message with each dance, just as each celebration has its own theme, said Maitra.

"The dances are all different kinds of dances from India," he said. "We try to mix as much old and new as we can. We want to explore the great celebrations of the past and how that has evolved into what we do now. That is reflected in the dance and the fashion."

The event also features introductions of local Indian students graduating from high school this year in addition to a "Kids Parade" and a chief guest.

This year's chief guest was Huntington Attorney Mike Farrell, who said he felt a true sense of community spirit at the event.

"Coming together in joy and support for children and one another is the true essence of Diwali," he said. "It is about helping other individuals, and it is dedicated to education, family, discipline, achievement and reaching out to each other to achieve those goals."

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