Johnson Celebrates Diwali Dhamaka: Festival of Lights
Diwali, known as the festival of lights, symbolizes the triumph of good over evil and light over darkness. It is the largest Hindu festival celebrated by Indians worldwide. NASA’s Johnson Space Center marked its first-ever Diwali celebration on November 14, 2023. The event included a ceremonial lighting of diyas (oil lamps), a speech by Goddard Space Flight Center Director Dr. Makenzie B. Lystrup, an introduction video about Diwali, and a captivating dance performance held in the Teague Auditorium.
The festivities continued with a jugalbandi, a traditional Indian classical music performance featuring the table and sitar, as well as a flute performance, a fashion show, and a spread of Diwali food and snacks. Anima Sabale, private astronaut mission integrator for the International Space Station Program, spearheaded the conception, planning, and organization of the event with support from Sunita Chotai, Hemanth Koralla, Ami Killeen, and Sarah Faron from Johnson’s Asians Succeeding in Innovation and Aerospace Employee Resource Group.
Sabale's vision behind organizing the group dances was to foster unity among colleagues by sharing culture, music, costumes, and the festive spirit. The event created a joyful and memorable experience while teaching Johnson employees various dance forms to Bollywood songs that represented different regions of India. A team of engineers and flight controllers invested time and effort in learning dances to lyrics that brought this vision to life. “Their dedication and passion showed on stage when they delivered two brilliant performances,” said Sabale. “They inspired several folks in the audience to participate next year. I am already looking forward to it!”
The audience was introduced to traditional instruments used in India for centuries. The opening performance, or alaap, introduced the melody, or raga, followed by the tabla in a harmonious composition known as gat.
Kathak, a prominent dance originating from North India, was performed by Suparna Paul, deputy manager of the Space Food Systems Laboratory. Kathak is known for its intricate footwork, which moves to the beat of small metallic bells strung together on anklets worn by the dancers. The performance showcased swift spins and fluid body movements and expressions.
The event concluded with a fashion show and a special invitation for everyone, including the audience, to showcase their traditional attire and walk the ramp together. Afterward, colleagues gathered in the hallway to enjoy curries, sweets, and Diwali snacks.
“I would like to give a special thanks to Joel Grant, our Gilruth Center fitness manager, to Kotesh Rao for lending his projector, and to Jayesh Sanchorawala for lending special lights for the fashion show,” said Sabale. “The Diwali celebration would not be possible without everyone who lent a helping hand before and throughout the event.”