Each autumn for the past eight years, Harbinder Singh and Srinivas Pentyala have been a source of light in the Suffolk County community — at least as far as the Hindu-originated festival of Diwali is concerned.
Singh is the founder of Diwali Stony Brook — one of the largest cultural shows in Suffolk County associated with Diwali, which is also known as the “festival of lights.”
Diwali is a period marked by joy and intended to drive away darkness with light. It falls in October or November. The exact date is based on the Hindu lunar calendar.
Diwali is celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains all over the world, Singh says. In India, it is marked irrespective of religion, by feasting and praying, and through song and dance.
On Long Island, Diwali Stony Brook typically attracts a few hundred people and features children ages 5 to 17 who perform classical, Bollywood and Bhangra dances.
This year, it takes place Saturday, Nov. 4, at John F. Kennedy Middle School in Port Jefferson Station.
MAKING A CELEBRATION
Last year, Syosset is believed to have been the first school district in the state of New York to approve Diwali as a school holiday, which takes effect this year.
Diwali Stony Brook was started in 2008 by a small group of volunteers looking to bring the cultural traditions of India to Long Island.
It is a time celebrated by donning new clothing, giving sweet dishes to friends and family, and with the lighting of candles and feasts, says co-organizer Pentyala.
Throughout the festival, traditional sweets and savory dishes are eaten, particularly on the third and fifth days.
The same goes for the Diwali Stony Brook celebration.
“Along with food, prayers and everyone getting together for fireworks, dance and song is a typical way to celebrate happiness,” Singh says.
Current hits from Indian movies are performed each year.
“The hope is that the children continue to learn about Indian traditions and customs,” Singh says.
SONG AND DANCE
Traditional Indiance dances, such as Bharatanatyam, Odissi and kuchipudi, have become staples at the annual celebration, Singh says.
Bharatanatyam is distinctively performed by a female dancer in a bent leg position and incorporates hand and facial gestures. Odissi is a classical dance that originated in Odisha, India, that is performed solo or as a group by children and adults. Kuchpudi is another classical dance that is characterized as performance art because it tells a dramatic story through movement alone.
Modern Bollywood routines and the highly energetic Bhangra dance also will be highlighted at Diwali Stony Brook.
Organizers of Diwali Stony Brook say their hope for this event is the same as it is every year: to introduce Diwali to the unfamiliar while simultaneously welcoming those who celebrate it.
Diwali Stony Brook
WHEN | WHERE 2:30-4 p.m. appetizers, 4-6:15 p.m. performances, 6:15-8:30 p.m. dinner Nov. 4 at John F. Kennedy Middle School, 200 Jayne Blvd., Port Jefferson Station
INFO 631-306-4291, diwalistonybrook.com
COST $24 ($21 ages 4-13) includes Indian buffet dinner