Public Insight Network

Sweet And Big Parties: Indians In Houston Celebrate Diwali

The Indian holiday Diwali begins this week. It's commonly called the Festival of Lights and marks the beginning of the Hindu New Year. How has the holiday's celebration in Houston grown through the years?


If you want to know what the meaning of Diwali is for Hindus, perhaps surprisingly Dwight the oddball character from the television show The Office has got a good explanation.

“Diwali is the celebration of the coronation of the god king Rama, after his epic battle with Ravana the demon king of Lanka. It’s symbolizes the battle between good and evil.”

Sunil Thakkar CEO and host at Masala Radio. Masala Radio is organizing one of the biggest Diwali events in Houston.

And to celebrate, all kinds of candles and lights are lit; people clean their homes; they buy gold for the goddess Lakshmi. And here in Houston, like many cities, they celebrate big. 

This year Masala Radio,  a local South Asian music station that plays Bollywood hits, says it’s organizing the biggest Diwali fairs in Houston ever. Sunil Thakkar hosts a drive-time show on the station.

“The stage is being set up today. The booths are all going up today. We had just one-day rental, then we had two day rental, Now it’s a Thursday, Friday, Saturday… They’re helping us a whole lot.”

It all happened at Sugar Land’s Skeeters Stadium this past weekend. The 8,000 tickets for the event were sold out the week before. And while this event had plenty of dancing, Indian fashion, and lights the festive spirit wasn’t just there. 

Walk into Raja Sweets on Hillcroft and people are buying sweet things for the holiday. Resham Gahunia is an owner of the bakery and restaurant.

“It’s Diwali. We are very busy, because all the people like sweets, you know. Diwali it means they buy the sweets, nuts dry snacks.”

Ruchi Mukherjee, an editor with Lights Camera Action a South Asian lifestyle website based here in Houston, says getting something sweet for this holiday is a tradition.

Resham Gahunia stands in front of a display of sweets at her store Raja Sweets. Image credit: Lights Camera Action Houston Society News

“It’s an Indian thing to say ‘mu meetta,’ meaning you need to have something sweet when it’s an auspicious moment.”

Gahunia says Raja Sweets is so much busier these days, she’s hired a couple extra people to help out in the back and the front. She says people buy all kinds of sweets — burfi, halwa, ras gulla — and make gift boxes out of them to give to friends, family and co-workers. 

“Yeah, they make the different boxes, the fancy boxes, some people like bulk—10 boxes, 15 boxes, 2 boxes, 4 boxes — to give to friend and family.”

In the past of couple of years, she’s been getting some big orders from area hospitals. Gahunia thinks hospital staff is giving those boxes of sweets to doctors and nurses working there.