Sister City Inspires Diwali Celebration

More than 15,000 people attended a “Diwali” celebration in the city of San Antonio, Texas last month making it the largest city sanctioned Diwali event in the United States. Diwali, also known as the “festival of lights,” is a five day festival widely celebrated in India.

San Antonio’s annual Diwali event, held in the city’s Hemisfair Park, was started to commemorate the city’s sister city signing with Chennai, India in 2008. A brainchild of Anuja San Antonio, the NGO that handles the sister city relationship with Chennai, the event has grown from 3000 attendees in 2008 to more than 15,000 in just four years. 

The Diwali event this year celebrated Indian culture by featuring a parade showcasing the diversity of several different Indian states. The parade was followed by an Indian dance show and other interactive entertainment that lasted for over two hours. The event ended with the traditional Diwali lighting of lamps and fireworks. Attendees lit over 2000 candles this year. The event also featured handicrafts and henna art booths and various food vendors selling Indian cuisine. 

According to Kausi Subramaniam, the event this year took about three months of planning. As a city sanctioned event, the venue was provided free of charge and Anuja SA raised funds to cover other associated costs. The event received sponsorship from several local businesses and many volunteers donated their time and expertise. Additionally, Anuja SA also worked with local diaspora organizations to reach out to the Indian community in San Antonio and the region.

This year’s celebration was also attended by San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro and representatives from the U.S. Department of State and the Indian consular office in Houston. Kausi adds, “We’re receiving calls from people across the US about the event and they’re eager to attend! The celebration has been successful in exposing the community to our sister city’s culture and tradition.”

San Antonio continues to strengthen and broaden ties with its sister city. Mayor Castro is set to lead a trade and business delegation to three Indian cities in January 2013 including Chennai.

The City of San Antonio and Anuja SA won the 2011 Sister Cities International Innovation: Arts and Culture Award.

Photo courtesy Murali Subramaniam.