Fireworks, entertainment and festivities mark AIA-NY’s 36th Deepavali Festival

New York: The 36th Annual Deepavali Festival was held at the South Street Seaport here on Sunday, October 1, attracting surging crowds that enjoyed sumptuous food by Michelin Star Chef Hemant Mathur, danced to the music of legendary Basement Bhangra Queen DJ Rekha Team and were enchanted by the finale – a spectacular display of fireworks on the East River.

The daylong event was organized by the Association of Indians in America, New York chapter, established in 1967 with a mission to promote the rich culture and traditions of Indians in their adopted land and to pass on these values to their younger generations.  AIA represents the hopes and aspirations of our immigrant community united by the ideal of “Indian Heritage and American Commitment” which is the AIA motto.

AIA members sing Indian National Anthem

AIA-NY President Dr. Jagdish Gupta, in his opening remarks from the Deepavali stage, elaborated on the main achievements of AIA over the last 56 years, such as New York City recognizing Diwali as an official holiday and suspending Alternate Side Street Parking on Diwali since 2005, celebrating the festival of lights in Gracie Mansion and later in White House in 2006, and release of official USPS “Forever Stamp” commemorating Diwali in 2013. 

The iconic Deepavali Festival this time was graced and addressed by our very own Assemblywoman, Honorable Jennifer Rajkumar, who proudly mentioned “Deepavali Day as a school holiday” for all our children in the entire NYC school system, which is the largest in the nation. 

Council Member Shekar Krishnan from District 25 in Jackson Heights in his speech explained the meaning of Deepavali as a ‘A row of lamps’. It signifies the triumph of ‘Good over Evil’, ‘Light over Darkness’ and ‘Knowledge over Ignorance’. 

Deputy Commissioner of Community Relations Bureau at the NYC Commission on Human Rights, Kajori Chaudhuri spoke about Diwali as the festival of joy and happiness for families highlighting that the holiday is celebrated by Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, Buddhists and people of many different countries including Indo-Caribbeans.

The event at South Street Seaport started with American Anthem sung by Mrs. Toral Shah followed by Indian National Anthem sung in a chorus by the Executive Committee of AIA’s NY chapter and joined by everyone.  Swati Vaishnav curated the cultural show participated by the best dance schools in the Tristate area, including Nartan Dance Academy, Reba Brown Dance Company, Kalakriti Academy of Arts, Neela Zareen Dance Academy, Shehnaaz Dance Academy and Ranjaneeny Dance School. 

The classical and traditional cultural program was beautifully emceed by Siddhi Vaishnav. All performances were of the highest artistic level and enjoyed by all with appreciation by frequent clapping. She also conducted a workshop with children on the stage and audience participation for various dance moves that was well received.

Children Kiosk this year worked creating eco-friendly crafts with Ingrid Van Shipley and her assistant with the theme of “Recycle, Reuse & Recreate’ artwork. More than 100 children of all ages participated. 

Internationally renowned Ophthalmologist, Dr. VK Raju, Founder & President of ‘The Eye Foundation of America’ dedicated to realizing a world without Childhood Blindness was recognized and honored for his vision and work in 25 countries trying to treat and prevent childhood blindness. 

The celebration continued with the reenactment of Ram Leela, directed by Pandit Satya Narayan Charka. He has been directing Ram Leela in AIA-NY Deepavali Festivals for the last 36 years. AIA-NY salutes him for his devotion. The story of Ramayana was beautifully performed by over 15 artists with excellent acting including dances and a musical component. Young and old in the audience were riveted by it.  

The star entertainment of the evening was Basement Bhangra Queen, legendary DJ Rekha and her team – MC Reena Shah, Alisha Desai, Juhi Desai, Avish on Dhol, Elizabeth Pupo-Walker as percussionist, dancers and instructors who kept the audience spellbound. 

The celebrations ended in a crescendo with the Fireworks Extravaganza from the barge on East River sponsored by the Association of Indians in America. The amazing pyro technique display lasted almost 30 minutes. The display of multiple colors and shapes along with sounds of Indian music was thoroughly enjoyed by hundreds of viewers in the observation deck.

The event of this magnitude is not possible without the support of the community at large including major sponsors CheapOair and Qatar Airways, New York Life, Mount Sinai Health System, Northwell Health System, Eye Foundation of America, and The Brooklyn Hospital Center.  

AIA-NY President Dr. Jagdish Gupta also expressed gratitude to his executive committee and advisers and all the media sponsors for their support.

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Assembly Member Jennifer Rajkumar honors globally renowned Ophthalmologist, Dr. VK Raju.


Executive Committee & Advisors of AIA Team


AIA members sing Indian National Anthem


Reenactment of Ram Leela


Dr Jagdish Gupta thanking all the artists and director of the Ram Leela


NYC Council Member Shekar Krshnan from District 25, Jackson Heights & Deputy Commissioner Community Relations Bureau, Kajori Chaudhuri at NYC Commission on Human Rights honored.


Siddhi Vaishnav- Emcee of the event


Image courtesy of Provided

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