Grand 9th International Diwali-Dussehra Festival

Houston: Shri Sita Ram Foundation, USA (a nonprofit) celebrates Diwali Dussehra Festival every year in the Biggest and The Grandest Way Possible. This epic celebration from Houston, has grown tremendously since it started and continues to reach more and more all over the world every year. The foundation team finds innovative, unique ways to share Indian Vedic culture/ values to people of Houston, Texas and neighboring states.  Last year it initiated efforts to highlight Diwali’s message of ‘Good Over Evil’  by involving Consul Generals of 15 countries in the Dussehra parade. 

This year, because of the pandemic, the event was celebrated Virtually via Zoom, Facebook live, and YouTube live.  Virtual nature of the event presented an opportunity to the Foundation to expand & share India’s Vedic culture and moral values (which appeal universally) rapidly to other countries than originally planned. Our Diwali celebration tag lines of  ‘Victory of Good Over Evil’, ‘Light over Darkness’, ‘Knowledge over Ignorance’, ‘Hope over Despair’, ‘ Truth Always Wins’, ‘Vasudhev Kutumbkam’ (world is but one family), resonated well with everyone whom we contacted worldwide. This year representatives of temples in several states of the US, and over 30 countries participated in the event. Foundation received a tremendous response to our call, to join us in an International effort to celebrate this festival of lights celebrating ‘Victory of Good Over Evil’, and showcase India’s culture and moral values worldwide. Temples, Performers and viewers participated enthusiastically from the entire globe as a result of this outreach effort by the Foundation team. 

This year the festival truly went International on 7th November, with its international participation of contestants, temples, Consul Generals, singer and dignitaries.

The event was broadcast Live via Facebook and YouTube to several hundred thousand viewers who logged in to watch this spectacular show for over 6 hours, around the globe. While the show started at 4:00 p.m CST, it was night in India and a number of other countries. An uptick in viewership was observed as Mideast, Europe and India started waking up and logging in.

The stage from where the entire event was broadcast was set at Gujarati Samaj of Houston (GSH) Event Center on West Bellfort Avenue in Houston with the entrance and hall  gorgeously decorated for Diwali festivities.

The stage had a Ram temple at one end and the Hanuman temple at the other. Flags of all participating countries were displayed in full glory. Sunder Kaand from Ramcharitmanas was recited devotionally as pre-event.

The program went live at 4 PM with the Host for the evening, Emcee DJ AJ Ajay Kumar entering the hall in his trade mark high energy with a Punjabi Dhol drummer singing and dancing all the way on to the stage. This was followed by a colorfully choreographed Hanuman Chalisa dance by Infused Performing Arts Dance Group of Houston.

Ramayan Skit competition followed where 50 teams from various countries (US, Canada, India, South Africa and others) contested by performing one minute skits depicting stories from various Kandas of Ramayan. This was well received and applauded by the audience. The top three teams,  winning the honors were from the US, India and Canada. The skit competition was judged meticulously by Divya Unni, Venu Joshyula, and Sandhya Rao of Houston.

Sita Ram Kalyanam, The divine marriage of Sita ji to Lord Ram, was an unique presentation. While Hanuman Swami of Rama Jaya Niketan temple in Houston conducted the divine marriage ceremony with the idols at one end of the stage, the same was enacted live simultaneously by actors in regal attire on the other end of the stage. Included in the divine marriage celebrations was a live marriage Band from India followed by Sri Rama Jaya Niketan temple students reciting Hanuman Chalisa. This was out of the world experience for the viewers.

The audiences were also enthralled by a showcase of 51 temples from USA, India, Myanmar, Australia, Hong Kong, United Kingdom, South Africa, Singapore, Malaysia, Nepal, Canada, Ireland. Some of the worldwide temples showcased were Thirumala Tirupati Balaji, Dwaraka, Ayodhya, Kashi Vishvanath, Puri Jagannath, Vrindavan, Vashno Devi, Mukthinath, BAPS Swaminarayan. The Foundation team took many months gracefully contacting the head priests of all the temples, and convincing them as to what the Foundation was attempting to do to share our Vedic culture worldwide. Once that was accomplished the team got unconditional support, with enthusiasm and co-operation from each temple.

An integral part of Diwali Dussehra Festival is Ram Leela, The play on Lord Rama’s journey, the divine King. This play was enacted by a whole range of wonderful actors from Houston including Divya Unni (a famous actress from South India) who opened the play with her dance performance. The play was directed and choreographed by S. Mathur and Rathna Kumar of Houston, winner of many international awards.

A beautiful devotional dance by Shailaja Grandhi followed the play. Ghoomer Dance of Rajasthan, a Gujarati dance, a mesmerizing Egyptian Sufi devotional dance in lighted LED costume kept the audiences captivated to the program.

While the stage shows were being broadcasted several messages from leaders of Texas and Consular Generals from Portugal, Austria, Thailand, Egypt, Norway, Australia, Mexico, Germany, Costa Rica and others were being shown to the world. Congratulatory Diwali messages from Governor Gregg Abbott of Texas, Mayor Sylvester Turner of Houston, Mayor Rick Stopfer of Irving, Mayor Zimmerman of Sugarland, several Judges and Commissioners were shown. Consul General of India, Mr. Aseem Mahajan along with his wife N. Mahajan joined the celebration. The CG of India addressed the gathering in person.

A fascinating presentation by Baba Maurya was shown from India. Baba ji is a Ram Bhakta, a Desh Bhakta, who has been involved with Ram Janam Bhoomi for a very long time and is a great painter. He drew a painting of Ram ji in 5 minutes while singing glories of Ram. This was  marvelous showcase of unique talent.

One of the highlights of the event was singer Anuradha Paudwal performing live via Zoom from Mumbai. She mesmerized the audience with her melodious voice and later interacted with her fans from around the globe; a gesture which created ripples of joy among her fans.

Chief Guest of the evening was Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, Honorable Minister of Jal Shakti in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government in India. He addressed the world audience via zoom from the Arunachal Pradesh. We hope to see him in person at the next year’s Diwali Dussehra Festival.

As the event was nearing its conclusion, conches were blown from the 51 temples worldwide before starting the Maha Aarti led by Hanuman Swami and joined by team of volunteers.

Thereafter thanks were given to all the volunteers and organizations which joined in this epic celebration. Plaques were handed out to the team of volunteers prior to the live countdown to ‘Ravan Dahan’ the burning of effigies of Ravan, Kumbhkaran and Meghnath, followed by spectacular fireworks.

The event has been viewed by several hundred thousand people already on Facebook with several hundred more expected to view over this festival season. Viewers can visit our website and click on the Facebook icon to view the entire epic celebration. Email to for any inquiry.

Shri Sita Ram Foundation, USA thanks all volunteers, temples, organizations, participants from several countries and several hundred thousand viewers who joined in this epic celebration of Diwali 2020.