San Antonio's Diwali Festival of Lights returns to Hemisfair brighter than ever

San Antonians made their way to celebrate Diwali on Saturday, November 2, 2019 at the Hemisfair downtown.

San Antonians made their way to celebrate Diwali on Saturday, November 2, 2019 at the Hemisfair downtown.

Joel Pena

On Saturday, November 6, the city will celebrate Indian culture at the 13th annual Diwali SA Festival of Lights from 6 to 10 p.m. After occurring remotely in 2020 due to COVID-19, the event will return to in-person festivities this year at Hemisfair.

Diwali, an Indian holiday that coincides with the Hindu New Year, celebrates the triumph of good over evil, when Rama defeated the evil spirit Ravana. Since 2009, the City of San Antonio alongside Anuja SA has been honoring the cultural tradition with a big and bright festival. It is now acknowledged as the largest city-sanctioned Diwali celebration in the United States. The San Antonio festival also seeks to foster the Sister City relationship between Chennai, India.

San Antonians made their way to celebrate Diwali on Saturday, November 2, 2019 at the Hemisfair downtown.

San Antonians made their way to celebrate Diwali on Saturday, November 2, 2019 at the Hemisfair downtown.

Joel Pena

“Diwali SA’s return to Hemisfair this year is welcome news. Diwali SA has grown into one of the most important cultural arts festivals in San Antonio and brings together our community in a celebration of the diverse rich culture of India where we have a sister city relationship with Chennai,” says Mayor Ron Nirenberg in a press statement. “I commend the organizers on their careful planning to facilitate an event that takes all the necessary public health guidance into account to ensure a safe evening.”

Music, live entertainment, and a sea of bright lights will fill the park.

“We are excited to be back at Hemisfair for Diwali SA this year. This year’s event has several new attractions and activities that we are certain that everyone will enjoy,” Anuia SA President Kausi Subramaniam expresses in a press statement. 

This year, the festival area will have double the footprint of years past, spanning from Alamo Street to the Tower of the Americas. A drum line featuring drummers from 12 different regions of India will lead a procession between the two locations. 

There will also be more lights than ever before, according to the City of San Antonio. A dozen Indian floor art pieces called Rangoli or Kolam will also be on display at the festival for the first time. Traditionally, the designs are made for the entryway of a home or temple to greet guests. 

COVID-19 safety measures will be in effect, including hand sanitizing stations and masking for staff. The outdoor event is free and open to the public. Vendors and food will come at an additional charge. 

“This year, with a return to onsite activity, attendees will be able to experience and enjoy firsthand the food and music as well as experience the other vendors who will be present. We take this opportunity to wish all our residents of Indian heritage in the San Antonio region a happy Diwali,” says Shahrzad Dowlatshahi, Chief Diplomacy & Protocol Officer for the City of San Antonio.

San Antonians made their way to celebrate Diwali on Saturday, November 2, 2019 at the Hemisfair downtown.

San Antonians made their way to celebrate Diwali on Saturday, November 2, 2019 at the Hemisfair downtown.

Joel Pena