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Fort Collins IANC Diwali Function in the press over the years
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Press Clips

Festival of lights' shines bright

Fort Collins Coloradoan - Fort Collins, Colo. SARA REED Oct 30, 2006

The pageantry and theater of Bollywood paid a visit to Fort Collins on Sunday night as community members gathered to celebrate one of the most joyous and important festivals in India.

More than 200 people filled the Lory Student Center Theater for a colorful evening of contemporary and traditional dance, music and performances for the eighth annual Diwali celebration.

Diwali, or Deepanjali, is celebrated by the 1 billion residents of India, regardless of religion, caste or language, and is celebrated in different ways across the country.

"It's all about cultural celebration," said Mohan Devarajulu, president of the India Association of Northern Colorado, a main sponsor of the event.

One of the components of the celebration, which is also referred to as a "festival of lights," is the lighting of oil lamps, called diyas, on a moonless night. These lamps can represent driving away ignorance with learning or the triumph of good over evil, Devarajulu said.

An underlying theme of Diwali is one of peace and unity, said U.M. Babu, one of the emcees who entertained the crowd between performances.

"If we can do this in India, why can't we do this in the world?" Babu asked.

The evening included a somber note as the association posthumously presented an award to Sonia Bawa, a 15-year-old Fort Collins girl who lost her battle with leukemia last year.

The award recognized her efforts in writing letters to President Bush asking him to put aside the war in Iraq for one day and put the money toward cancer research as well as fundraising she did after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and her donations to Afghani school children impacted by the war that followed.

Sonia's father, Rajan Bawa, accepted the award and left the crowd with a piece of advice from Sonia.

"Don't worry, be happy," he said.
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Diwali: The triumph of good

Fort Collins Coloradoan - Fort Collins, Colo. Kelli Lackett, Nov 14, 2005

Homes of Northern Colorado Indian residents were lit up recently in observance of the festival of Diwali, the most celebrated event in the Hindu calendar.

But the community celebration of Diwali, the Festival of Lights, is still to come.

On Nov. 19, Fort Collins residents will get an opportunity to learn more about Diwali and India at the annual Diwali program at Lory Student Center at Colorado State University, which is sponsored by the India Association of Northern Colorado.

Diwali, or Deepanjali, is celebrated throughout the country of one billion people and by Indians living throughout the world. Indians commonly light small oil lamps called diyas during the celebration and place them around the home, on rooftops and walls and in courtyards.

"Diwali falls on the new moon, the darkest night of the month, and after Diwali is the start of the new year," said Sandeep Kohli, general secretary of the India Association of Northern Colorado, which has 150 member families. "What the (festival) means is praying for wisdom, prosperity, knowledge and peace for our families and for people around the world."

Indians usually give gifts to family members and friends and buy new clothes, said Ravi Narayanan, president of the IANC. Firecrackers light up the night sky and sweets are exchanged between friends and neighbors.

"Diwali is the most glamorous holiday in India," Narayanan said.

Stories explaining the reason for celebrating Diwali vary depending on the region in India, but all of them involve the triumph of good over evil. In the north of India, the five-day festival is said to commemorate the return of King Rama to his kingdom, after he pursued and slew a demon king who had abducted his wife and taken her to Sri Lanka.

The Fort Collins Diwali celebration on Nov. 19 will include a cultural program with music, dance and drama, followed by a dinner of Indian food provided by Star of India and members of the Indian community.

"This is an event for the whole community," Narayanan said. "It's a great opportunity to come and see everyone and understand Indian culture by means of dances, music and food.

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Indian community celebrates festival of lights


Fort Collins Coloradoan - Fort Collins, Colo., Kelli Lackett, Nov 19, 2004

The India Association of Northern Colorado and the Colorado State University Indian Students will celebrate one of the most popular Indian festivals, Diwali, Saturday with a colorful celebration showcasing the diversity of Indian culture and food.

Diwali, or Deepanjali, is celebrated throughout the country of one billion people and by Indians living throughout the world. Indians commonly light small oil lamps called diyas during the "festival of lights" and place them around the home, on rooftops and walls and in courtyards.

The light of the festival symbolizes renewal. It's a time when Indians pray for wisdom, truth, wealth and prosperity, said Ajay K. Jha, president of the India Association of Northern Colorado.

"(The prayer is) to take out darkness in our hearts and give us light, take out frustration and give us hope and take out violence in the mind and convert it to peace and bring peace and prosperity to the world," Jha said.

The cultural program, which will kick off Saturday's Diwali celebration at the Colorado State University's Lory Student Center, will be an opportunity for Northern Colorado residents to learn about how much Indian culture varies from region to region.

Indian dancers will demonstrate classical, contemporary and regional dance styles, Jha said.

"Every state is diverse culturally, socially and linguistically. ... But we are basically one big family," Jha said. "(The program) gives a diverse outlook on the country."

Anyone interested in learning more about Indian culture or cultural diversity of Northern Colorado is invited to attend, he said.

A banquet of Indian food, supported by Star of Indian and India Rice & Spice, will round out the evening's festivities.

Interested?

The India Association of Northern Colorado and the Colorado State University Indian Students Association will host a Diwali, or Deepanjali, celebration on Saturday at the Lory Student Center. A cultural program takes place from 6 to 7: 30 p.m. and a dinner will follow from 7:30 to 9:45 p.m. Tickets are $18 for adults, $10 for children and CSU students and are available from India Rice & Spice, 2519 S Shields St., north corner of S. Shields Street and Drake Road. Purchase in person or reserve by calling 221-1552 or 481-2321.


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A show of unity -Indian Diwali festival emphasizes peace


Fort Collins Coloradoan - Fort Collins, Colo., Sara Reed, Nov 21, 2004

In a time of war and international conflict, part of the Fort Collins populace showed that unity is possible.

More than 300 people gathered in the Lory Student Center theater Saturday for a night of traditional, contemporary and regional dance in celebration of one of India's most important festivals, Diwali.

Diwali, or Deepanjali, is celebrated by the 1 billion residents of India, regardless of religion, caste or language, said Fort Collins resident Amol Amin.

"The Diwali is so important in India, it goes on for five days," Amin said.

And Saturday's event is an example of how the celebrations extend beyond the borders of India, Amin said.

"We work within the larger community to bring this to everyone," he said.

One of the components of the celebration, which is also referred to as a "festival of lights," is the lighting of oil lamps, called diyas, on a moonless night.

These lamps, which are placed around the home, on rooftops and walls and in courtyards, are lit to honor the goddess of wealth and prosperity.

"We light the lamps to bring the goddess of wealth to us," Amin said.

But beyond prayers for wealth and prosperity, Diwali is a time of peace and unity. This message, Amin said, is something that can be translated to current world situations.

To Amin, if the diverse population of India can find peace through this celebration, the rest of the world should be able to do so as well.

"If we can do this in India, why can't we do this in the world?" Amin asked.

After the dancing, event-goers were treated to a banquet of Indian food.

The festival, hosted by the India Association of Northern Colorado and Colorado State University, is now in its sixth year.
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Hindu holiday brightens outlook


Fort Collins Coloradoan - Fort Collins, Colo., Amy Bergstrom, Oct 16, 2003

The orange glow of Diwali lights will shine from houses across India and Fort Collins this month.

"Every house in India is all lit up during Deepavali (Diwali)," said Ajay Jha, president of the India Association of Northern Colorado and a researcher in horticulture at Colorado State University.

Diwali is the Hindu festival of lights, one of the biggest holidays on the Hindu calendar. It falls on the 15th day of the dark fortnight of the Hindu month Ashwin, which, this year, is Oct. 25.

There are more than 100 members of the IANC, but upward of about 200 Indian families in Northern Colorado, Jha estimated. The IANC was formed four years ago as a get-together of Indian families "so we should not forget the culture of India," Jha said.

Jha and his family moved to Fort Collins from northern India 2 years ago when Jha accepted the job at CSU.

Indian cultural events are important to share with the community, he said.

"We are part of the bigger Fort Collins community," he said. "We have to exist together, work together and maintain our multicultural identity."

During Diwali, Indian families light a lamp to welcome Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth and prosperity.

"It is the celebration of a new year," Jha said. "It leads us in to truth and light."

Lighting the lamps not only welcomes Lakshmi but also drives away the darkness.

"It signifies the victory of divine forces over the power of darkness," said Preety Sathe, a human resources consultant, whose husband, Abhay, is vice president of the IANC. The Sathe family moved to Fort Collins from India nine years ago.

The festival is celebrated with lights, sweets and fireworks. In the evening, families participate in worshipping Lakshmi. Diwali is an ancient festival whose roots are lost, Abhay Sathe said.

It could symbolize the beginning of longer nights and shorter days, or be a holiday similar to Halloween, symbolizing the driving away of evil spirits.

The IANC will host a Diwali celebration from 6 to 10 p.m. Saturday at the Fort Collins Senior Center, 1200 Raintree Drive.

The celebration will include traditional lamp lighting and other Indian cultural events, followed by a dinner of Indian cuisine. All cultural event participants will be in traditional costumes.

Indian families in Fort Collins celebrate Indian traditions for feelings of family and togetherness, Preety Sathe said.

"We definitely want the feeling of home away from home," she said.
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Celebrating the new moon- Festival of lights illuminates traditional customs of India


Fort Collins Coloradoan - Fort Collins, Colo., Matthew Benson, Nov 5, 2000

India's a world away, but it felt a little closer to home Saturday evening at the Diwali festival at Fort Collins' Senior Center.

Diwali, meaning row of lights, is a celebration of the new moon - a time of darkness - and is a major festival in India with fireworks displays and lamps illuminating communities.

"The whole idea is that ignorance is being conquered by light," said Uma Mahesh Babu, vice president of the India Association of Northern Colorado.

While no fireworks were used at the IANC's third annual Diwali celebration, there was plenty of singing, dancing and traditional Indian food.

"I think cultural diversity is of great importance to the community," Mayor Ray Martinez said in an address that helped kick off the evening. "I look forward to seeing this expand until we don't have enough room for it in here anymore."

That time may already have come.

The event sold out, - filling the Senior Center ballroom to its 238-person capacity - but easily could have sold another 50 tickets, Babu said.

"We may need a bigger place next year," he said. "There's a tremendous amount of spiritualism in Fort Collins."

As Fort Collins and its surrounding communities have grown, Babu said the number of families of Asian-Indian ancestry has grown as well, noting that the IANC boasts 300 members.

Not all of its members are Asian-Indian, however. More than 30 families belong to the group simply because of their interest in Hindu culture, Babu said.

Festival attendee Preety Sathe said the event helps bring their children closer to the people and customs of their culture.

"It's a great idea of bringing them closer to the people of our community," she said. "I get the feel of India with the people here."

"The whole idea is that ignorance is being conquered by light.'

- Uma Mahesh Babu


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Why do we celebrate Diwali?