Newbury Park hosts Diwali celebration

More than one billion people celebrate Diwali around the world. Here, in Newbury Park, Diwali traditions vary from those in India, but this festival of lights continues to bring families together for the festival’s five nights.

On Saturday, Nov. 11, celebrations began at the Dos Vientos Community Center, honoring culture through traditional foods, attire, music and dancing. Many performances were done by students of Conejo Valley.

Anjali Tholudur, Rithu Velu and Prisha Dutta, all students at NPHS, helped run the event, while also enjoying it for themselves. For about the last seven years, this Diwali celebration has been put on for all people to join, even for those who do not celebrate. The exposure is a great way to learn about Indian culture. “We’ve had the original people who started it, and then just other people joined as well. And so in celebrating, it brings a lot of people from the community in,” Tholudur, Velu and Prisha Dutta said.

Festivities and culture continued through Thousand Oaks, with the performance of the Leela Youth Dance Company, on Tuesday, Nov. 14. For the second year in a row, students from all different levels came together at the Thousand Oaks Grant R. Brimhall Library to share the dance style of Kathak. Kathak, the Indian classical dance style, shares stories through footwork and precise rhythm.

Ayanna Cannan, two-year teacher for the Leela Youth Dance Company, has been dancing since she was five years old. In the pre professional company, which ranges from ages 11 to 17, the students start small, and make their way to the most advanced levels. “From a young age, we like to teach them what it means- what each thing they are dancing means, and how that plays into their culture, and how it contributes to teaching them how to be strong and independent when they get older,” Cannan said.

Tholudur enjoys how the celebrations of Diwali bring the Conejo Valley community in reconnection to culture. “For me, [Diwali] just means having a whole community, the Indian community, coming together and celebrating here. You can see a lot of people from our school come and people that we have grown up with, for the last 8 years that I have lived here. So, it’s great to see everyone again and eat a lot of great food,” Tholudur said.