Featuring music, live performances and a variety of vendors, the Diwali festival has been an annual staple of Cupertino’s cultural festivals. Despite an increase in the cost of at the festival throughout the years, many of the businesses remain, selling everything from traditional clothing and jewelry to paintings and religious statues.
Click through the story for photos and to find out more about a few of the businesses that were present at the event on Saturday, Oct.1.
Additional reporting by Kat Pappas.
Lhamo Lhamo, a Tibetan small-business-owner, stands alone in her booth, re-organizing the array of shawls, bracelets and bags scattered across her table for display. She speaks confidently to curious shoppers and passersby, despite this being her first trip to the U.S.
“I’m staying around 10 days here,” Lhamo said. “[This] is my first time here. It’s pretty good, but I’m not going anywhere but [the festival].”
All the items in Lhamo’s booth — from her bracelets to her weavings — are handmade and sell anywhere from three to hundreds of dollars. Lhamo first began working with the Tibetan Chamber of Commerce as a business just a few months ago, and when she found out about the Cupertino Diwali Festival, she decided to come for the day in hopes of making money from her handicrafts.
Her weavings, which mostly depict the Buddha and wild animals, are intricate and colorful, often taking her many days to perfect. The meaning behind the pins, which all say “Free Tibet,” is personal to Lhamo and other Tibetans upset about Chinese occupation of Tibet
“This is our mission [is] called ‘Free Tibet,’” Lhamo said. “We don’t have a free Tibet [right now]. Tibet is under China, so we make this for Tibet.”
Despite her limited time in the country, Lhamo has enjoyed her stay so far, and she is hopeful about her business and the rest of her stay.
A shimmering incense candle burns slowly and brightly on the table in front of small-business owner Nidhi Doshi, its smoke wafting across the fairgrounds.
Doshi was attending the festival representing her company Easy Diya, originally founded by her mother two years ago in Bangalore, India in hopes of revolutionizing the “diya” — a small religious candle that is lit almost every day in most observing Hindus’ homes — is used.
“[Traditional diya] keeps burning when you leave home and you can’t blow it off because it’s inauspicious. And you don’t want to leave it burning because we have wooden homes [in America],” Doshi said. “So [my mother] came up with the idea of Easy Diya [which is] a set volume of [butter], so it burns for a fixed amount of time.”
Easy Diya was a huge success, and the company began to expand into making smokeless kempher (traditionally used kempher tends to set off fire alarms), a variety of incenses and more.
Founded by MVHS junior Siddhi Shah’s mom about 10 years ago as a small Indian clothing business, The Royal Fashions has since grown to become a trusted vendor of Indian clothing, jewelery and more in the area. Junior Ananya Srinivas, a friend of Shah’s, is one of these customers and helps the Shah family out with their booth every year.
“I’ve been buying all my Indian clothes from here,” Srinivas said. “I dance, so I come here whenever I need tops. They’re like my plug for Indian clothes and jewelry.”
Before founding the business, Shah’s mom began at the Diwali Festival by drawing henna, and began to bring along a few more items of clothing to her booth every year, eventually creating the full-fledged business it is today.
According to Shah, the business’s growth has definitely had an impact on her family, bringing them closer to their heritage and each other.
“On the weekends, we’re at these [festivals]. It’s something that I really enjoy,” Shah said. “I always look forward to this time of year because I get to come and help. It’s like a unique experience. I don’t think I’d be wearing Indian clothes as often of watching these performances as often if I wasn’t a part of something like this.”
Charles Howell, the owner of Central California-based stable company Pony Up Express, leans against the booth and laughs animatedly with an acquaintance before speaking to a customer interested in the table of the cowboy hats he brought with him.
Howell bought Pony Up Express, which sets up mobile pony rides at events across the state, from his cousin after working with him for ten years.
Though his cousin had come to the Diwali Festival for the past five years, this is Howell’s first, and he has enjoyed the experience so far.
“It’s a great festival. I hear they have some wonderful food,” Howell said. “I’d like to tell all the people to come out and visit, at least for a culture thing, you know? Check out all the different cultures in your area. From what I hear, it’s supposed to be over 10,000 people today.”
Between him, his uncle and his step-dad, the company owns about 150 ponies that the three take all over California. Right now, the company has been busy driving across the state to pumpkin patches and fall themed and cultural festivals.