Belmont Library’s Diwali celebration warms hearts


Anika Marino

Children fill in rangoli designs with colored rice flour and sand as adults stand around eating samosas, drinking chai, and socializing.

Chatter and loud music echoed from inside the Belmont Library, where an annual Diwali celebration took place as participants laughed and bonded over a tradition-filled holiday.

Diwali, the Indian new year, is typically celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs, and Jains. The word comes from the Sanskrit word “deepavali,” meaning rows of lamps. The holiday’s mythology varies depending on location. However, the general idea of Diwali is the celebration of good triumphing over evil.

At the Belmont Library, Purvi Jejurkar helps organize the annual Indian cultural events. 

“We’ve done Holi before, and now Diwali. This is our seventh year hosting a local event,” Jejurkar said.

Jejurkar enjoys teaching others about her culture, and she believes that the Belmont Library has helped her do so. 

“We’re really fortunate to have such a multiethnic and diverse citizenry in this city, and it is amazing to see how people come together to see different cultures and different art forms,” she said.

The celebration brought people together to experience Diwali practices, food, and dancing. The hosts serving free samosas with mint chutney, chai with tamarind or cilantro, and traditional sweets. Children and adults alike partook creating traditional rangoli: intricate designs on the ground made from colored rice flour and sand. After a couple of hours of socializing, participants were guided inside to enjoy traditional South Indian dancing performed by Pagrav Dance Studio and a poem recitation.

Anika Marino
Children create their own rangoli designs at the Belmont Library’s Diwali celebration.

The library welcomed not only people who regularly celebrate Diwali, but also those who have not heard of it.

“I follow the library’s calendar to see the different celebrations for the diverse cultures; for me, it’s like traveling,” says Pilar Podesta, an attendee at the Diwali celebration.

According to the U.S. Census, as of 2018, around 27.2% of the Belmont population was Asian American. Considering this percentage includes all Asian countries, the Indian American community is rather small in Belmont, making it difficult for new families to find others that celebrate the same holidays. Many Indian Americans living in the Bay Area find comfort in participating in these local cultural events, especially those who recently immigrated from India. 

“When I first came to the U.S., I missed home terribly. Making all these relationships with friends and neighbors from the same culture, you still feel at home,” said Sangeetha Kamalakkannan, a first-time attendee.

For Jejurkar, it’s important that this event is celebrated in the local community. It’s a opportunity t0 creating a new community and for creating a fresh start.

“Diwali means something new, something fresh. It’s looking in a positive sense, in fighting your own darkness. In day to day life, there is plenty of darkness around us. This is a day to celebrate, but it’s also a reminder to have to live life meaningfully,” Jejurkar said.