Hindu Temple of the Woodlands Celebrates Diwali Mela

htw_in01By Beth Kulkarni

THE WOODLANDS: As many as 5000 persons from as far away as Colorado, as well as from Clear Lake and Sugarland, came to the Hindu Temple of The Woodlands on Saturday, November 5 for the community Diwali celebration. This was a significant number of attendees, many of them local Americans who had never visited a Hindu temple or seen the celebration of Diwali, the festival of lights.

But even more impressive than the number of visitors, was the hundreds of volunteers, some of who have been meeting weekly for several months to look after every detail of the Mela.

As Diwali means the festival of lights, after dark a magnificent wall of diyas, earthenware lamps, were lit by several hundred devotees. With the wall depicting temple scenes, it was a sight to behold! One visitor from the Sugarland area stated that this “Diya Wall” was the finest that he had ever seen.

Guests enjoyed food from various parts of India including, including dosas (thin crispy rice-lentil pancakes with potato masala and two kinds of chutney and sambar; samosas and various other snack food including specialties as prepared in various parts of India; “Modi Chai with Ginger”; and mango milkshakes. Some experienced dosas makers did “taste tests” before determining that the dosas were even better than they made at home!

In addition, there were booths selling costume jewelry, ethnic Indian outfits, saris, Indian handicrafts and art created by two Indian-American ladies. Several businesses and nonprofit organizations also had booths in which they shared their products with interested attendees. One somewhat unique one was a provider of solar electric panels, which have been installed in several Woodlands homes, dramatically reducing electricity cost to the home-owners.

The temple’s newly published cookbook was also available for its initial sale. “Traditional Indian Foods and New Favorites” is a hardcover book of over 450 pages, with a variety of recipes from local cooks and their friends. It is completely vegetarian, with many recipes that are either vegan or easily adapted to be vegan. It will be available for sale at the temple.

Those attending the Mela, or festival, appreciated different aspects of the event. Sanjay Joshi, co-chair of the event this year as well as in previous years, stated “It is beyond our expectations that in these few years we would have such a grand Diwali celebration attracting hundreds of our neighbors and friends who are enjoying celebrating with us.”

 Others were amazed at the musical and dance talent demonstrated on the stage. Young children through senior citizens showed their talents from 11 am through 10 pm.

A middle-school girl, Lakshmi, along with many of her friends, was not willing to leave the temple at 10 pm as she was having such a good time. In fact, late evening was the most popular time for many, especially volunteers who were busy with the food stalls earlier in the day and finally available to enjoy the singing and dancing, which took place on the other side of the temple.

HTW Priest Chandrashekar Sarma, when asked what part of the Mela he liked the most, stated that he was most impressed with the unity of the temple community working hard to make the event possible. He also mentioned he was impressed with how hard the volunteers worked.