The Mandir complex in Lilburn, colorful draperies and intricate décor marked the arrival of the most prominent Hindu celebration of the year: Diwali, the Festival of Lights. Excited chatter filled the air as families greeted each other and exchanged well wishes for the upcoming year.
“This is my favorite time of year,” said Chandresh Patel, a volunteer who helped in preparations for the event. “Since I can’t take my children to India every year for the celebrations, I feel blessed that I can bring them to the Mandir, where they can experience the same joy and excitement.”
Among the highlights of this five-day festival was a special screening of the award-winning large format film Mystic India, which traces a young boy’s treacherous journey through India to spread a message of love, service and harmony. Following the film were fireworks, held with the illuminated Mandir as a backdrop.
The weeklong festivities reached a climax on Sunday, October 18 with the offering of Annakut, an elaborate offering of thousands of vegetarian food items, all arranged artistically before the sacred images. By preparing food items for the Annakut, followers showed their devotion to God, thanking him for his providence in the past year and seeking his blessings for the year ahead.
“The Annakut is beautiful,” said Kirna Parikh, who cooks items for the offering every year. “Every time I see it, I’m always impressed by the unique details like the creative fruit carvings and decorative cakes and pastries. The number of food items alone show how devoted and inspired the volunteers are.”
Thousands of people from across the Southeast attended the festival. Among the most prominent attendees were three Georgia gubernatorial candidates: Congressman Nathan Deal, General David Poythress and Attorney General Thurbert Baker. While he could not attend the weekend festivities, gubernatorial candidate, Commissioner John Oxendine, also expressed his best wishes. Also attending were Chairman of the Gwinnett County Board of Education Louise Radloff, Former Commissioner for Economic Development Craig Lesser and State Senator Chip Pearson, who chairs the Economic Development Committee.