From the outset, as I stepped onto the grounds of the Arya Spiritual Center last weekend in Queens, New York, to join model Bhumika Arora in celebrating this year’s Diwali festival of lights, things were simply lit.
The gathered crowd was reverential, to be sure, celebrating the annual Hindu holiday that calls in and invites Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity and wealth, through the traditional service of puja. But the scene was in fact bathed in lights.
Ropes of twinklers hung from the booths that dotted the perimeter of the center selling embroidered saris and sparkling slippers. A motorcade of decorative parade floats idled and dazzled before traversing down a 10-street stretch in a blur of color and fluorescent lighting. Masses of revelers beamed as they took in the brilliant sight—one of them, of course, being Arora, the 27-year-old runway star who has walked for designers from Stella McCartney to Balmain.
The Karnal, India, native was wrapped up in the folds of a beige and red sari, and causing a stir in the crowd on a holiday she’s celebrated since she was a young girl. “It’s the biggest festival in India, especially for Hindus. It’s crazy there: fireworks, lamps, and the whole feeling,” she said excitedly. “It happens when there is no moon in the sky, so everyone puts lights outside their houses to guide Lakshmi there. You’re welcoming the goddess. You’re making the point, ‘This is the house that you have come to visit!’ ”
And following the custom of outfitting the home in resplendent lights, Diwali revelers adorn themselves in new clothing for the occasion. “You’re sitting there, doing the puja in front of Lakshmi in beautiful clothes, feeling beautiful, so you can ask for more good things in your life. You are trying to please the gods,” Arora said. She donned a traditional sari that evening (“Sari is the one outfit where you wear it and instantly you feel even more Indian!”); other women wrapped themselves in lehengas. But while time-honored dressing dictated most of her choices, a modern, urban influence found itself into her look via the maroon Anna Sui bomber jacket that is sure to catch Lakshmi’s eye just as it did Arora’s neighbors. Said the model: “Even when I got dressed up and came out of the apartment like this, everybody was staring at me!”
The post How Indian Model Bhumika Arora Mixes Tradition and Modern Style at the Diwali Festival appeared first on Vogue.