12th International Diwali-Dussehra Festival: A Grand Spectacle

The brand new Fort Bend Epicenter decorated with 12th International Diwali-Dussehra Shri Ram’s image in the foreground

By Kapil Sharma

HOUSTON — The 12th International Diwali-Dussehra Festival, organized by the Shri Sita Ram Foundation, USA, unfolded in a grand spectacle, leaving a lasting impression on attendees, including local dignitaries and consul generals from nearly a dozen nations. This vibrant celebration of culture and tradition took place at the new state-of-the-art Fort Bend Epicenter in Rosenberg, Texas, on Saturday, Nov. 4, 2023.

Ram Lila on the stage attracted huge crowds and loud applause. The event was streamed live to 25 countries.

The festival, a representation of the rich Indian heritage in the U.S. garnered overwhelming attendance, uniting individuals in the spirit of Diwali, the “Festival of Lights.” The event featured exceptional stage performances, including the Shiv Tandav Dance, a mesmerizing Lion Dance from Vietnam, and an enchanting Egyptian Dance that left the audience in awe. Twenty-six children participated in a talent show, showcasing their skills in singing, dancing, and playing musical instruments.

Dignitaries being facilitated on the stage by Dr. Arun Verma.

The festival’s walkways were bustling with enthusiastic attendees exploring booths, where a wide array of products and traditional Indian cuisine added a vibrant touch to the festivities. The event also included a grand parade — over 40 floats represented various organizations, infusing an American touch into the festival, as well as The Ravan Dahan, a grand scale burning effigy symbolizing the victory of Lord Rama over the demon Ravan. Equally mesmerizing were the paintings devoted to Lord Ram by Baba Satyanarayan Maurya, which captivated and enthralled the audience. The event culminated with a captivating laser show and traditional Garba dance around the fountain.

HH Chinna Jeeyar Swami ji walking around the festival

The star of the show was the presence of Padma Bhushan His Holiness Sri Chinna Jeeyar Swami, a Vedic scholar who flew in from India to grace the occasion with his discourse and blessings. Swami ji said he was astonished that an event of this grandeur and scale could be organized in North America.

“It is truly remarkable to experience the rich traditions and values celebrated at the Diwali Dussehra festival,” he said. “The performances by various international artists enriched the universal principle of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, that the world is one family”. He continued “while we may look different, talk different and worship different, we are all children of the same Mother Earth, making us all siblings”. At the festival, he also spoke about the Statue of Union, the tallest statue of Lord Hanuman in North America, an embodiment of strength, devotion, and selfless service. In the great Ramayana, Lord Hanuman united Mother Sita with Lord Rama. In the process, created the union of man with nature and humans with animals. The need of the hour in today’s world is to foster better understanding, mutual respect and peaceful coexistence. The Statue of Union stands tall and constantly reminds us of these very values”.  

Parade float depicting Nav Durga.

Also in attendance were 11 Consul Generals from different countries – for example, Italy, Norway, and Switzerland. The Consul General of India, D C Manjunath, served as the Grand Marshal of the parade, emphasizing the festival’s growing importance in the cultural landscape of Houston and the U.S. 

“This event has become a significant part of Houston’s cultural landscape, showcasing the essence of Diwali through Ramlila, diverse dance forms, and vibrant community participation,” Manjunath said. “It’s now an eagerly awaited annual celebration, appreciated worldwide for its message of light over darkness.”

Special guests of honor included Renu Khator, President of the University of Houston System, Congresswomen Lizzie Fletcher from Houston, Fort Bend County Judge KP George and District Court Judge Surendran Pattel.

Baba Satyanarayana Maurya drawing Shri Ram on stage.

Inclusivity and diversity were at the core of the festival. The stage performances included participants from various backgrounds and the parade featured representation from the Jewish and Ismaili communities. Added Jess Levenson, “I had an amazing experience and felt very welcomed and honored as a Jewish person. Hearing guest speaker Swami Ji’s call for peace and love was a beautiful beginning to the celebration, and everything that happened after – dancing, singing, acting, chanting, parading – was spectacular! It was truly a successful victory of good over evil!”.

“Attending the International Diwali-Dussehra Festival is a vibrant and exciting experience for youth,” said Haripriya Sundar, President of Young Hindus of Greater Houston (YHGH) and a parade participant. “It’s an eagerly anticipated annual event to learn about diverse cultures and create lasting memories with friends.”

UH Chancellor Renu Khator speaking on stage

Renu Khator, President of the University of Houston System commented: “My most memorable take away is seeing young children proudly wearing national attire, performing cultural dances, and learning about Indian mythology. This experience alone is transformational because it is an investment in our future”.

Dr. Arun Verma, founder of Shri Sita Ram Foundation acknowledged the commitment and efforts of volunteers who made the event possible. “The 12th International Diwali-Dussehra Festival was a celebration and a testament to our collective commitment to preserving and promoting our rich cultural heritage to the Indian Diaspora and the rest of the world,” he said. “This festival was organized with the intention of fostering unity, celebrating the victory of good over evil, and sharing our traditions and moral values with the world. Through tireless effort and dedication of all the volunteers, we witnessed the culmination of our vision in a successful and impactful event.”

For further information about Shri Sita Ram Foundation, please visit www.shrisitaram.org or contact:

Dr Arun Verma, arun@shrisitaram.org, (832) 646-0955

Kapil Sharma, kapil_sharma@outlook.com, (804) 806-1424