MONTVILLE, NJ - Montville Township’s Hilldale Elementary School was overflowing with excitement, fun, and joy as the school celebrated its first Diwali celebration, an Indian festival of lights, on Tuesday, Nov. 15.

Diwali literally means a room of lamps and takes place on the darkest night in the month of Kartik in the Hindu calendar. This year it began on Sunday, Oct. 30 and continued to Thursday, Nov. 3. It is a festival that celebrates light over darkness and good over evil.

The program included examples of Hindu prayer said by students, an explanation of the festival, classical Indian dancing, Bollywood dancing and a fashion show.

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Susana Agrusti, a member of Hilldale Parent Teacher Council (PTC), explained that the school traditionally celebrated other cultural holidays but never celebrated a traditional Indian holiday. She said that she thought it would be a wonderful idea to start a new tradition of bringing a bit of Indian culture to Hilldale.

Agrusti and Saritha Gurram, another Hilldale PTC member, explained that at least 50 Indian families came together to help prepare for the celebration. They said the participants spent hours practicing, even at night, and had at least 6,000 messages on WhatsApp.

Hilldale Principal Jill Cisneros said, “The children practiced so hard. It was fantastic. As I visited the classrooms this morning, the children couldn’t wait and were so excited. Everyone got involved. It was phenomenal.”

Prasenjit Guha, father of third grader Aditil Guha, said, “The celebration was awesome.” Aditil performed in the program as a dancer.

Pooja Manhas, a dance instructor from Aum Dance Creations, who volunteered her time and talent, choreographed and instructed the many dancers who performed in the program. Anu Mysore, manager of Aum Dance Creations, also was present to support Manhas and the students.

Agrusti told the students that dreams can bring happiness into our community.

Each child received a goodie box that came directly from India that included traditional Diwali candles.

There were many people who made this celebration possible. The following names are of the group leaders: Mamatha Gadarla, Raji Thata, Triveni Kabat, Anjali Arora, Neha Rai, Vijaya Hegde, Savitha Pollapally, Priti Gupta, Bhavani Podipireddy, Latha Agnel, Shilpi Sinha, Saritha Gurram, Deepa Tiwari Sharma, Kalyani Sataluri, Jaya Sahani,  Mounika Nandhyala, and Susana Agrusti.