Thousands Throng ‘Little India’ to Celebrate Diwali

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By Indiawest

ARTESIA, Calif., United States: A major thoroughfare normally filled with thousands of vehicles every day was replaced by thousands of pedestrians for the whole of Nov. 10 as the Little India Chamber of Commerce and the City of Artesia brought a Diwali Mela to Little India’s Pioneer Blvd.

The celebratory day and evening featured several blocks of entertainment and pastime activities, as about a half-mile stretch of Pioneer Blvd. was shut down to traffic to celebrate Diwali, one of India’s most revered and significant holidays.

Festivities were anchored on the south end of Pioneer Blvd., where a center stage was erected at 187th St. just above the Little India Village shopping center and adjacent to Jay Bharat restaurant.

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A dandiya-raas event advertised to take place at the Diwali Mela never occurred, but attendees were still in a festive mood.

During the day, a few hundred people congregated near the stage to freely dance to the beats of DJ Desi Heartbeat. At the north end of Pioneer Blvd., a smaller stage was set up between Little India Grill and Sona Chaandi, where a deejay played music and a fashion show took place just after sunset.

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A few hundred feet away from the Sona Chaandi stage was a children’s play area, complete with three moon bouncers, a rotating swing, and a rock-climber.

In between the children’s play area and the center stage two blocks south were dozens of vendor booths. Many of the booths also had storefronts somewhere along Pioneer and created an Indian-themed bazaar or marketplace. Vendors either offered services, sold food or clothes, or publicized a cause.

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Vendors who set up shop along Pioneer Blvd. included Vitha Jewelers, Loveleen Sari Palace, Jassi’s Fashion and Tailoring, Sona Chaandi, Navkaar Jewelers, SAHARA, Money Gram, Vonage, Dish Network, Jadoo 3, Frontier Heritage, Faiz International, The Ice Cream Way, Ashoka The Great, Rasraj, Mezza Mediterranean Grill, Mezban Biryani Palace, Bangle Bazaar, and Bhimas Biryani, among others.

Julio’s Pizza set up a beer garden, where patrons were able to enjoy an alcoholic beverage and watch some Sunday afternoon football on one of the many televisions inside.

With visitors strolling up and down Pioneer Blvd. during the day and visiting the many booths, the size of the crowd swelled into the thousands after 6 p.m. and filled the area in front of the center stage to take in the evening’s entertainment.

Others spent time filling the shops and restaurants. Every restaurant was jam-packed with diners during the event’s peak hours between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m.

A team of singers anchored by Fame Gurukul contestant Rex D’Souza performed a medley of popular Indian songs through most of the evening. Also performing were Akshay Hari of “Saregama 2012” fame, Sanjay Desai, Mina Shinde, Manish Soni, and Zeenat.

The evening concert also featured a fashion show displaying the latest trends in Indian formal wear. Models from Frontier Heritage and Mirage Collections took to the catwalk to show off wardrobes from the respective clothing shops.

Though the event was a Mela in its truest form with evening entertainment and a fair-like atmosphere up and down Pioneer Blvd., a few dignitaries were present at the Diwali Mela, including several members of the Artesia City Council.

Artesia Mayor Sally Flowers welcomed the Diwali event both as a means to promote Indian culture and encourage economic development in her city.

“A real focus of the city of Artesia is economic development. We want to bring not only the Indian community to our Indian corridor, we also want to bring in the non-Indians,” Flowers told India-West. “The intent of this is to grace the Indian American community and bring people together.”

Also attending the festivities was Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca.

“There’s a wealth aspect and a goodness aspect, and also a form of celebrating goodness with the Goddess Lakshmi,” Baca told India-West about what Diwali means to him. “Prosperity is another part of the story.”