The open and free event, supported by the Consulate of India and Swami Vivekanand Cultural Centre, Sao Paulo, attracts a huge number of people to celebrate Indian culture and taste Indian dishes in the biggest Brazilian city
Under an overcast sky, with light showers coming and going, a patch of green ground in the heart of city turned into a Little India as the Indian Association of Sao Paulo (IASP) organized the first-ever Diwali Mela to celebrate the Indian festival of lights on Saturday, November 25, 2023.
With stalls and kiosks of Indian food like samosas, vegetable kebabs, Indian-style noodles, biryani and sweets like gulab jamun on the platter, the grounds of Faculdade Oswaldo Cruz, a medical college in the Barra Funda locality, was filled with delicious smells of dishes that has turned Indian food into a truly global cuisine. Despite rainy weather and chilly winds, crowds began to trickle into the mela ground in the afternoon. The fair saw a big surge in numbers in the evening as the members of Indian community joined the gathering with their families and friends.
Supported by the Consulate of India in Sao Paulo and Swami Vivekanand Cultural Centre (SVCC), the open and free event was hugely appreciated by the community and local people for the opportunity to participate in the biggest Indian festival in Brazil.
Besides Indian food, drinks and a number of stalls selling vegan food and products, the highlight of the fair was a cultural programme which showcased Indian music and dance forms – from classical to Bollywood – in front of an enchanted crowd, which was as cosmopolitan as the biggest South American city is.
The gathering was formally inaugurated with the traditional lamp-lighting ceremony with the Indian Consul General in Sao Paulo, Ms Manisha Swami, India-Brazil Chamber of Commerce president, Mr Roberto Paranhos, and IASP board members, Shobhan Saxena, Rakesh Kanojia and Vijay Bavaskar, lighting the lamp. Addressing the gathering, the Indian Consul General thanked the people for joining the festival of lights. “It is a really great to see such a big turnout at this mela despite inclement weather. It is good to see so many of you coming here to be part of this celebration of Indian culture in Diwali,” said Ms Swami to a huge round of applause.
The envoy’s address was followed by Lakshmi Aarti as community members and families of Indian officials at the consulate joined Ms Swami in lighting small lamps in front of the portrait of Goddess Lakshmi with the traditional song, ‘Jai Lakshmi mata…’ playing on speakers.
The cultural programme began with a garba performance by a group of Indian ladies led by Seema Patel. Moving in synchronized pattern to the song “Kaho Poonam na chaand ne”, the dance was much appreciated by the large crowd in front of the stage. After the opening dance, there was a series of high-quality performances by a number of professional artists: Bollywood dances by SVCC troupe led by Amelize Mattos, tabla by Edgar Bueno, solo dances by Rupali Mishra and Vaijanti Raut, Bollywood songs by Suraj Mohan and a medley of Bollywood hits by Disha Malani group. The more than two-hour long performance kept the audience hooked to the cultural programme, which was coordinated by Juily Malani and emceed by Carlos Magno of SVCC. The cultural programme ended with fireworks with the children of the community participating in it with great enthusiasm.
Besides food, drinks and cultural celebrations, the mela also had spiritual elements in it. The Brahma Kumaris (BK) Organization, which runs a center in the city, set up a beautifully-decorated stall. At their stall, Sisters Juliana and Erica interacted with a large number of visitors who had questions about BK and meditation practices. Also, a delegation of BAPS Swaminarayan from Chicago, who were in town to participate in their Diwali event the next day, joined the festivities at the mela.
In his vote of thanks, IASP president expressed gratitude to the Indian Consul General, Consuls Harish Baxla and Adarsh Kumar Mishra and SVCC for supporting the event. He also thanked Vijay Solanki of Satguru Travels, the premium Indian travel agency in Brazil, Sandeep and Andrezza Bansal of Tudinho Graphics and Gopi of Vegnice for their partnership. Last but not the least, he thanked the members of the Indian community whose generous help made the mela possible and a success. Some prominent members of Indian community, including Vijay Shintre, Nilesh Bhonde, Gurcharan Kukreja, Vijay Adwani, Manoj Kumar, Sanjeev Verma, Sudhir Kamath, Sarabjeet Singh Bedi, Avinash Mishra, Anil Yadav and Fasih Ahmed, contributed selflessly to the funds of Diwali Mela 2023.
Food stalls set up by Chef Deepali Bavaskar of Samosa & Company, Kanchana Kanojia of Curry’s, Hyderabad Biryani House, sweets by Pragya Dixit of Namaste da India and drinks bar by Pramod Rawat continued to attract people late into the night after the cultural programme got over around 9 30 pm. A special stall set up by SVCC, which showcased Indian musical instruments, statues and books besides tips on yoga protocol by Satyendra Kumar Singh, teacher of Indian culture and yoga at SVCC, was a huge success, especially among the Brazilians. Free henna designs, done by Carolina Bachin and Priscilla Pereira and supported by SVCC, was appreciated by the large gathering.