CHICAGO: The Diwali celebration organized by the City of Aurora’s Indian American Community Outreach Advisory Board (IACOAB) at the Waubonsie Valley High School in Aurora (a southwest suburb of Chicago) attracted over 3500 people. This was the fourth Diwali celebration organized by the IACOAB.
For a few glittering hours the Waubonsie gymnasium turned into a mini-India with dances and music from various parts of India, and to add to the festival gaiety, vendors offering delicious snacks ranging from bhelpuri to biryani.
The cultural events began with the traditional ‘Aradhana’ to Lord Ganesha, the elephant headed deity who is the remover of obstacles. This was presented by the Samskrithi Foundation, followed by a ‘Garba’ dance from the state of Gujarat, presented by R & D Bollybeats. Arya Dance Academy, Bollywood Rhythms Dance & Arts, Team Taal, Midwest Edge Dance Academy and Madhu Dance & Art Academy presented Bollywood dances.
The Acharya Performing Arts Academy presented a folk dance ‘Krishna Leela’ which started with a depiction of Lord Krishna’s childhood pranks. Tarana Dance Academy presented a Kathak dance – an art form which involves rhythmic foot movements. Team Ghunguru presented ‘rhythms of Kerala’. Dances from Maharashtra including the traditional ‘Lavani’ were presented by the Maharashtra Folk Dance and Maharashtra Mandal. TG Junior presented an Indo-Western dance while a Kathak dance was presented by the Tarana Dance Academy.
The joie de vivre of India’s biggest religious festival was energetically recreated by the enthusiastic compeering of Jassi Parmar of Desi Junction Radio.
Gautam Bhatia, chair and Kunal Majmundar, vice chair of the IACOAB welcomed the guests who had not let inclement weather deter them from attending the festivities.
Diwali, (the Eastern equivalent of Christmas) is celebrated by millions of Hindus in India, and other countries including Nepal, Sri Lanka, Mauritius and Trinidad.
Alderman Rick Mervine perhaps echoed the audience when he said that over the course of the last four years the Diwali event had become an integral part of Aurora’s culture and one which an increasing number of people of non-Indian descent attend and participate in.
Among elected officials attending the event were Aurora Mayor Rick Irwin, members of the Aurora City Council, US Congressman Bill Foster, Oak Brook Mayor Gopal Lalmalani and the Consul General of India Ms Neeta Bhushan.
The Midwest’s leading Indian grocery chain Patel Brothers was the Event Sponsor. Other sponsors included Waubonsee Community College, PNC Bank, Professional Mortgage Solutions, Remax, Goldfish Swim School, Creative Lending Solutions, Accutax and Stem Shala. The media sponsors were India Post, TV Asia and Desi Junction.
The IACOAB has instituted two scholarships named after the great Indian saint who introduced Hinduism to the West – Swami Vivekananda. The winners this year – Nikhil Mohanty and Parvathi Swaminathan – were presented with certificates at the event. The board plans to increase the number of scholarships to five in 2018 and double the number in 2019.
The IACOAB is entrusted with the task of acting as a liaison between the City of Aurora and the community at large. In recent months the board has organized an interactive Public Education and Civic Education (PACE) with the enthusiastic participation of teachers and administrators of Naperville schools on the subject ‘Unity in diversity’ and a Bollywood Night at the Philips Park in Aurora.
The members of the board are Gautam Bhatia, Chair, Kunal Majmundar, Vice Chair, Sandeep Londhe, Secretary, Deepak Mehta, Treasurer, Niveditta Ahuja, Roopa Anjanappa, Ashok Easwaran, Sharon Garcia, Prasad Garkhedkar, Girish Kapur, Ranjan Mohanty, Sanjeev Pandey and Anupama Setty.