With veg food stalls and henna booths, Houston's Dusshera-Diwali festival attracts 10,000 people

With veg food stalls and henna booths, Houston's Dusshera-Diwali festival attracts 10,000 people
A massive Diwali-Dussehra celebration festival showcasing the best of Indian culture, heritage, and values in an unparalleled manner has attracted a record-breaking crowd of more than 10,000 persons from all walks of life and ethnicities here in Texas.

The 11th Grand International Diwali-Dussehra Festival, depicting the "victory of good over evil", at Constellation Field in Sugar Land, a Greater Houston suburb, was attended by several dignitaries, including US congressmen, judges, mayors, and commissioners on Saturday.

Organised by the Shri Sita Ram Foundation (SSRF), a non-profit organisation, the epic celebration from 2012 onwards has grown tremendously over the years and continues to attract more attendees across Texas and other states every year.

The foundation finds innovative and unique ways to share Indian Vedic culture and values.

Last year it initiated efforts to highlight Diwali's message of "Good Over Evil" by involving consul generals of 15 countries in the Dussehra parade.


This year, Texas Governor Greg Abbott sent in a video message, with Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner being the Grand Marshal along with consul generals of several countries joining for the Dussehra parade.

The football stadium was brilliantly transformed and decorated with millions of dazzling multi-coloured lights, lit-up main entrance gates, and colourful silk-draped vendor booths.

The ceilings and walls of the concourse and field were decorated with traditional banners, flags, hangings, and pictures of several deities.

The vendor booths did a brisk business in selling traditional Diwali items, including Diwali diyas, jewellery, fashion clothing, and toys.

A "food bazaar" served vegetarian food from every part of India.

This festival had special attractions for children like henna booths, face painting, balloons, moonwalks, merry-go-rounds, a petting zoo, horse buggy rides, clowns, etc.

Performances like folk dances, martial arts of India, and kids in costumes of the characters from the scriptures were presented on a two-tiered 60 ft. by 40 ft. stage, with professionally installed stage lights, special effects, and huge LED screens adding a wow factor for the audience.

A 24-foot-tall figure of lord Hanuman and a 35-foot-tall figure of Lord Ram was installed next to the stage.

A play in English depicting the life of lord Rama and his final battle to overcome evil kept the audience glued to their seats till the end, earning a standing ovation.

Arun Verma, president of SSRF, said: "India is a country of festivals and Diwali being the biggest of all festivals, we try to introduce, educate, promote and showcase the rich vibrant culture and moral value to the Indian diaspora and all Americans, while celebrating the 'Victory of Good over Evil' and 'Universal Brotherhood'."

"We bring the best of the best and do it on a grand scale. You name it, and we have it over here."

The festival is "open to anybody" as it also includes aspects of American culture, according to Verma.

"Our belief is that the entire world is one big family and we need to treat everybody like a brother and a sister. To demonstrate that, we have invited every one of them," he said.

"Looking at the overwhelming response this year and the record crowd, we may have to take this festival to an even bigger location than this football field with the capacity of 10,000 spectators" as we had to stop people from entering after it crossed the maximum capacity due to city restraints, he told PTI.

The Sugar Land festival, which Verma said is the biggest of its kind in Texas, combines the two Hindu holidays of Diwali and Dussehra.

The festival featured a unique multi-coloured magnificent parade with 40 floats by local temples and community organisations representing scenes, stories, and characters from Indian scriptures.

Mayor Turner, who was the Grand Marshal, lead the parade alongside the Consul General of India in Houston, Aseem Mahajan, the Consulate General of France in Houston, Valerie Baraba, Indian American Fort Bend County Judge, K P George, as well as several representatives of the Texas Congressmen and other official dignitaries.

The parade included representatives of the nearly 100 consul generals in Houston who represent several foreign countries.

Valerie Baraban said in a tweet that she was "thrilled to participate in the Grand 11th International Diwali-Dussehra festival alongside Mayor Sylvester Turner, CG Mahajan, and other members of the consular corps. India is one of France's major partners in the Indo-pacific region".

This year's festival also celebrated the 75th anniversary of India's independence "Amrit Mahotsav".

Fifteen major freedom fighters such as Mahatma Gandhi, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, and Subhash Chander Bose were honoured by carrying 75 Indian flags during the parade.

"The entire Houston Consular Corp. joined the celebrations in the true spirit of Vasudeva Kumtumbkam, thus treating the entire world as a big family. This was depicted in the parade by 100 volunteers carrying 100 national flags of the entire Houston Consular Corp," Verma said.

As November elections are around the corner, a few political candidates like Beto O'Rourke, who is running for Texas Governor position, found the stage to greet Indian Americans.

Wishing everyone Diwali, he said, adding that "we celebrate this festival of lights to push out darkness and celebrate the triumph of good over evil", with each of us having a chance to "make sure we are heard in this great democracy".

The Ravan Dahan, the burning of a 25-foot-tall effigy of Ravan, Kumbhakaran, and Meghnath, was held amongst the loud sound of crackers and spectacular fireworks to celebrate the occasion of the "Victory of Good Over Evil".

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