Sunnyvale, Calif. — Bright lights and the beats of Bollywood greeted the thousands of Indian Americans at the Sunnyvale Hindu Temple’s annual Diwali Mela this past weekend as they packed into the temple’s sprawling concert hall to hear melody queen Sadhana Sargam. Sargam, singer of monster hits like “Pehla Nasha” from the cult classic “Jo Jita Wohi Sikandar” and “Chupke Se” from “Saathiya” got the crowds on their feet as she belted out one hit after another in a mesmerizing two-hour concert.
Dressed in shimmering pink attire, Sargam, who was the reigning queen of Bollywood singing for nearly a decade, said she was humbled by the love of her Bay Area fans.
“It my pleasure and an honor to sing for this wonderful audience. I am thrilled to be celebrating Diwali with my fans and am happy to see such a festive atmosphere thousands of miles away from home,” Sargam told India-West.
“We are having a blast. It’s like Christmas in November. I simply love Sadhana Sargam’s voice. I grew up swooning to her song ‘Pehla Nasha’,” said Ramesh Vij, a Sunnyvale resident.
Also performing live at the Oct. 17-19 three-day event were singer Kushal Paul and Ali Sher. The latter, originally hailing from Faisalabad, Pakistan, said he is inspired by his Sufi heritage and will soon be releasing an album of Sufi melodies.
For the crowd, there was plenty of shopping and delicious Indian food. Beautiful saris, lehengas and jewelry booths dazzled amidst the lights as women crowded into the make-shift boutiques and bargained to their hearts content.
Napa Valley’s Ruchika Nischal, owner and creative director of Ruchi’s Couture, brought in some high-end fashion to traditional Indian fare as she displayed her beautifully crafted saris made using modern Roberto Cavalli fabrics.
“My designs cater to the modern women – who love traditional fare but at the same time are bold in experimenting with modern designs,” said Nischal.
For many others like Mountain View resident Neha Sharma, the highlight was the glorious food. Sharma, who came with a large group, said they all gorged on the Delhi chaat and the Mumbai street food like Dabeli and Pao Bhaji.
“We’ve been lazing around at the mela all day shopping, watching the live bands and eating. The kids are dancing to the live performances, looking lovely in their Indian attire…it’s a day well spent,” Sen said.
The food caterers at the celebration were happy with the turnout. Several eateries had to turn back customers as they were sold out within half day of the event.
The temple authorities said they plan to make the Diwali Mela grander with even more community participation in the coming year. Raj Bhanot, co-founder of the temple, said his entire team is proud to be presenting the Mela for the 18th consecutive year.
“We try to make it grander and more fun every year. The love the community has showered on us keeps us going,” he told India-West.
The fun and revelry was accompanied by an elaborate chariot ride for Goddess Lakshmi with a swarm of devotees showering coins and flowers along the path. The priests rang bells and chanted hymns along the 20-minute ride as curious onlookers stopped to capture photographs of the glittering chariot and bejeweled gold idol.
The Goddess of Wealth, worshipped by millions of Hindus, is the presiding deity during the Diwali month. The chariot ride, priests said, is a way to honor her.
Hindus celebrate Diwali to mark the triumph of light over darkness, and good over evil.
The Sunnyvale temple recently underwent a complete renovation and re-opened earlier this year with a grand worship hall that has a seating capacity of 1000 people and state-of-the-art kitchen that can serve up to 500 people at once.
The temple also has 32 new “Vigrahas,” which authorities said were custom made in Jaipur, Puri and Kanchipuram in India.