By Mehul Shah, for the South Asian Association of Bedford
Diwali, also known as the Festival of Lights, is a significant Hindu festival celebrated globally. It symbolizes the triumph of light over darkness and good over evil. During Diwali, families illuminate their homes with lamps, exchange gifts, and participate in various religious and cultural activities to mark the joyous occasion.
Bedford is not new to this festival and has celebrated it grandly for the past several years. It started as a tradition by one of Bedford’s own citizens, Anitha Reddy Yajnik, 10 years ago when she gathered a group of like-minded individuals to form the Bedford Desi Club (BDC) and started the tradition of an annual Bedford Diwali celebration in 2014. After several years of successful Diwali celebrations, the pandemic forced the group to take a break from its usual grand celebrations in 2020 and 2021.
Last year, in 2022, the Bedford South Asian community once again hosted a Diwali celebration to much excitement. In 2023, BDC officially became the South Asian Association of Bedford (SAAB) and has continued this rich Bedford Diwali tradition.
The 2023 Beford Diwali Celebration was held on November 4th at the Sons of Italy in Watertown. The annual gala was attended by 230+ Bedford community members. The evening provided adults and kids with the opportunity to celebrate, dance, eat, and enjoy as one big Bedford family.
The program included dance performances by 80+ students from Bedford schools. The performances were supported by choreographers who volunteered their invaluable time for more than two months teaching our Bedford children. In addition to the SAAB committee members, a part of the event was emceed by Bedford High School students, Shriya Raut and Sthuthi Venkatesh, who are leaders at the BHS’s South Asian Association.
Diwali is all about dressing up in bright traditional clothes, eating great food, dancing and spending time with your closest family and community members, and the SAAB Diwali program hit all the right notes in ensuring the Bedford South Asian community experienced the true essence of Diwali.
Sushma Raja, Vice President of SAAB, stated that “one of the main missions of SAAB is to celebrate the South Asian culture through various social, cultural, and community programs, and the 2023 Diwali celebration was a key step in driving that mission forward”.
One of the attendees summed up the atmosphere at the 2023 Bedford Diwali Celebration perfectly “There are no words to describe the energy of the night. The food was amazing, the performances were unreal, the DJ was top notch, but the best part was watching the organic takeover of the stage and dance floor by all the kids from Davis to BHS. The sore muscles and blisters on our feet are the signs of a tremendous celebration.”
Memories of the event were captured through photos and video by Bedford’s own Shannon Dillon from Creative Images and Naga Gandham from Naga Gandham Photography.
Successfully executing a program at this scale is not easy and it would not be possible with the support of sponsors including Suzanne & Company, RSM, Callahans Karate, Diane & Mimi from Sotheby’s, and a grant the organization received from the Bedford Cultural Council. In addition, all the SAAB committee members, Sushma Raja, Taruna Shah, Lalitha Ranganath, Amee Mistry, Sonal Patel, Dhiren Patel and Mehul Shah, played a key role in making the 2023 Diwali celebration a huge success.
Bedford is an amazing town that embraces the true nature of diversity and a celebration like Diwali that is jointly supported by several Bedford businesses and the Bedford Cultural Council is a testament to this diverse and inclusive town.
Happy Diwali, Bedford! May the festival of lights bring prosperity and happiness to you and your loved ones!