Celebrating Diwali and Holi in Rochester, Minnesota: Becoming Minnesotan

Prasanna Mishra, c.2001.
  • Name - Prasanna Mishra
  • Age at interview - 50
  • Gender - Male
  • Generation - First Generation American / Immigrant
  • Date of Interview - 01.28.1999
  • We Are Here

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    Essential Question

    We Are Here: What does it mean to this immigrant group to be here in America?

    Cultural Preservation: How does a person weave his or her traditional culture into a new American identity?

    Words to look for


    Background Information

    Many Indian immigrants participate in religious organizations or samaj and social clubs that bring together members of their individual cultural group.  These groups plan events to celebrate their traditional language, food, music, and other cultural practices from their home regions in India.  These groups also celebrate traditional cultural and religious holidays, including  Holi, a spring festival observed by Hindus, Sikhs which is celebrated with the throwing of colored powder and water and with bonfires, and Diwali, an important five-day festival in Hinduism, Sikhism and Jainism, popularly known as the Festival of Lights.  However, India is a large country that includes many different ethnic groups, languages, and religions.  In fact, there are over 84 different languages spoken in India, including Oriya.  It is likely that Indian immigrants to the U.S. will form friendships with others who came from different parts of India and may have slightly different traditions.  This is especially true in smaller cities and towns where the Asian Indian population may be quite small and isolated.

    To learn more about Asian Indian history and culture, visit our Asian Indian Community page.

    • Chapter 1

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    Interviewee: Prasanna Mishra

    Interviewer: Polly Sonifer

    PS: The associations that are here in the Rochester area, what kinds of activities do you have going on in Rochester?

    PM: We have Diwali for sure every year, in the Indian association. That is across this religious line and caste line.

    PS: And how do you celebrate Diwali?

    PM: They have an evening which starts with music, dance, and some skits, and a kids' show. Then there's a complimentary dinner. Sometimes they have a Holi celebration also, in the spring.

    PS: And how do you celebrate Holi?

    PM: Truly, I've not been there. My wife and children have been there three times. I think they have so far celebrated three Holis in six years. I can't tell for sure what they do. They have some dances and stuff and they have some food, but I've never been there. Always I've been out of town during that time, at a meeting or something.

    PS: The traditional way of celebrating Holi is with throwing colors [colored powders and colored water] at each other.

    PM: Right. Yes.

    PS: But they don't do that here?

    PM: That's true. But in south India they also don't do that. They don't throw colors. In my place, Orissa, traditionally, we don't do Diwali as well. On that new moon night, they burn a stick and call their forefathers to accept our gift and that's the way in Orissa they do it.

    PS: Are there any other things that the Indian association here does, other than the bhajans and the pujas?

    PM: Pujas are not a part of the Indian association; it is a part of the Hindi community. One person sponsors and they get together and do the puja. But the Indian association is mostly for this. They do two picnics, two or three picnics, through the summer, also, the Indian association. That's a big affair. They also play games of cricket and soccer, volleyball, and three times they meet. Sometimes in a state park, also, a thing like that. That's a good way of getting together, the picnics.

    Related Glossary Terms


    Noun:  A social function or event.


    Noun:  A group of persons associated for a common purpose; an organization; society.


    Noun:  Any type of Indian devotional song.

    Listen to this word: 


    Noun:  Any of the hereditary social classes of South Asian societies.


    Noun:  A group of people who share a common understanding of the same language, manners, tradition and law.


    Adjective:  Free; provided at no charge. 


    Noun:  A game played outdoors with bats and a ball between two teams of eleven, popular in England and many Commonwealth countries.


    Noun:  Ancestors; cultural ancestors.


    Noun:  A Hindu religious ritual as an act of worship.

    Listen to this word: 


    Adjective:  Relating to a part of culture that is passed from person to person or generation to generation.


    Minnesota Historical Society. Becoming Minnesotan: Stories of Recent Immigrants and Refugees. September 2010. Institute of Museum and Library Services. [Date of access]. http://www.mnhs.org/immigration
    nid: 631