Diwali Fest in Maplewood

MAPLEWOOD, NJ — In honor of South Asia’s cultural and artistic diversity, the township of Maplewood and three local volunteer organizations — SOMA Masala, SOMAsian and SOMA Cross-Cultural Works — will host the first Diwali Fest NJ at The Woodland, 60 Woodland Road in Maplewood, on Sunday, Oct. 22, from 12:30 to 6:30 p.m. The event will be free and open to the public.

Diwali, or the Festival of Lights, is an annual celebration for more than a billion people of South Asian heritage. To many, Diwali signifies the power of light to triumph over darkness. The occasion is marked with multiple, diverse traditions and celebrations. In Maplewood, Diwali Fest NJ will feature live music, dance, demonstrations, crafts and activities for the entire family, as well as vendors of arts, handicrafts, books, traditional and contemporary South Asian ethnic wear. Diwali Fest NJ will also provide visitors the opportunity to enjoy an assortment of foods from dosas, curries and flatbreads to contemporary Indian Italian fusion cuisine.

In a statement, Maplewood Mayor Victor DeLuca said he “welcomes another opportunity to honor the diversity of our residents” and believes that this vibrant celebration of South Asian customs and culture “will be warmly embraced by the entire community.”

Performances and hands-on workshops will be led by artists, musicians, dancers and chefs from the region. They will include a percussion drum ensemble featuring tabla artist and South Orange resident Sandeep Swadia and veteran mridangist Prakash Rao; the award-winning South Asian fusion a cappella group Rutgers RAAG; Aum Dance Creations’ Bollywood ensemble dance and workshop led by Rina Shah; and Masala Bhangra, an international fitness approach based on high-energy Indian dance.

Children will have opportunities to participate in many hands-on activities such as sculpting traditional lamps called diyas and creating intricate mandala-like designs called rangoli; exploring Indian folk art with local artist Deepa Pisupati; and making a traditional Diwali sweet with dietician and food stylist, Monika Mahajan, a Maplewood resident. Prominent writer and Maplewood resident Marina Budhos will lead an authors’ panel with other well-known South Asian American writers from the Tri-State Area.

At 5:30 p.m., the festival will move outdoors for the event’s grand finale: the illumination of Diwali lights and a performance of the Garba. The Garba is a large-scale energetic and celebratory Indian dance that welcomes attendees’ full participation.

Additional festival day program information about performances, activities, and vendors will be available on www.DiwaliFestNJ.org.