The Fairview United Methodist Church was the place in Colombia for Diwali, where more than 60 people gathered for the Festival of Light, the largest Hindu celebration of the year.
Bright clothes, loud music and a smile all around colored the plain auditorium. While music was playing, a young child snored in a stroller near the entrance. Families gathered over homemade food, and women rummaged in the ornate saris and salwars, traditional Indian ensembles for special occasions. Merchandise boards contained clothing and jewelry. There was no shortage of sweet-smelling desserts.
Diwali is the Hindu festival of lights, one of the most important holidays in the Hindu religion. There are some differences in what the holiday represents between the northern and southern Hindu traditions. The common theme, however, is that light has triumphed over darkness and ignorance and people are liberated.
People spent all morning and day preparing food for the festival, and vendors even came from St. Louis to set up their stands.
The Columbia Diwali Festival took place in just a few days. Pratibha Tripathi planned the festival together with Nitu Patel and Megha Garg so that the Hindu community and beyond could be together on the holidays.
The hardest part of planning the event was finding the location and vendors. Tripathi said there aren’t many traditional vendors living in or around Columbia.
After the location and goods were determined, the event gave sellers an opportunity to expand their stores and share traditional recipes.
Abhilasha Sharma has been cooking in India since she was at school. She remembers being tutored by her mother and father and carried the recipes and techniques into her later years. Sharma explained what the festival meant to her and said, “No matter what, the good always wins.” Sharma’s table had chole chawal, a chickpea curry and rice bowl, and sweet desserts to try.
Around the corner in the auditorium was a stand with brightly colored clothes and fabrics. Indu Varatharha, owner of Boutique 4 India in Ballwin, had her stand set up to display saris, salwars, jewelry and more.
“The clothes are different from south to north,” said Varatharha. “There are so many different traditions and variations on it.”
She designs most of her clothes. Many are handcrafted in India with detailed jewels and stitching and then shipped to the United States. Varatharha has owned Boutique 4 India for six years and traveled to Colombia for Diwali to showcase her collections.
Clothing isn’t the only thing that can create a stylish look at the Columbia Diwali celebration. Handmade with Joy is a jewelry company that was founded a few months ago by Preeti Shirgur. Shirgur started selling one-of-a-kind items at markets and fairs similar to the Diwali festival and has since expanded her business on Etsy.
“I just like to do,” said Shirgur. Seeing the pieces come together is very exciting, she said.