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 <<CityNews Main Send Flowers to India!

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Diwali & Hindu New Year Celebrated at BAPS Temple

People of all age groups eagerly look forward to Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Lights. Diwali is the most widely celebrated Hindu festival, marking the victory of good over evil and the beginning of the Hindu New Year. It is a time when Hindus throughout the world go to Mandir and pray for both forgiveness and success in the coming year. People illuminate their homes with colorful lights, wear new and traditional clothes, share sweets, and send well wishes to family and friends.

The scene was no different at BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Lilburn. Buzzing with joy and excitement, visitors were greeted with rangoli, a beautiful floor design made with colored rice and powder, as they entered the brightly glowing Mandir. Thereafter, visitors participated in chopda pujan, a special prayer ritual during which account books are purified and prayers are held for a prosperous New Year. 

Later that night, a vast array of colorful fireworks lit up the night sky. The fireworks not only celebrate the coming of the New Year, but are also symbolic of the happiness people experience while participating in Diwali festivities.

Saturday, November 6 marked the culmination of weeks of planning and preparation, setting the stage for the most significant ritual of the Diwali events, ‘Annakut’. Annakut, which literally means ‘a mountain of food’, is traditionally offered to God to celebrate the beginning of the Hindu New Year. "The preparation begins very early in the morning for us," explained Amrita Patel of the BAPS youth wing. "The vegetarian food is traditionally arranged in tiers or steps in front of the sacred images of God. The sweets are placed nearest. As the tiers descend, other foods such as vegetables, pulses and fried savories are arranged. A mound of cooked rice, symbolic of Mt. Govardhan, is placed in the center. Today over 1600 food items have been offered to God.”

Devotees arrived early in the morning dressed in colorful traditional clothing to behold the beautifully adorned deities in the Mandir. The atmosphere was filled with festivity and divinity as devotees greeted each other. The young touched the feet of the elders and sadhus, and got their blessings. The first arti (Hindu ritual) of the New Year was performed at 11 AM followed by prayers for world peace and well-being. 

“Diwali is my favorite festival because of the excitement that fills the air when the festival nears. But having recently migrated to the US, I did not know what to expect,” said Tuhin Patel. “However, after coming to the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir. I felt like I was back in India. I experienced my culture while getting a taste of fine Indian cuisine. Every person I met had an expression of warmth and happiness on their face. I truly felt at home.”

“Diwali is that time of year when family, friends and relatives get together and strengthen their bonds through various festivities. Being away from India should not cause a lapse in our traditions”, said Hiten Patel. “Preparations for the festivities begin months in advance. Devotees, young and old, sacrificed their time to help in creating decorations, preparing food, arranging for the Children’s Diwali Celebration, as well as setting up the stage for the most significant ritual of Diwali, the Annakut,” concluded Patel. 

Also attending the celebrations were Mayor of Lilburn, Diana Preston, and State Representative-Elect, BJ Pak. Wishing everyone a happy new year, Mayor Preston was overjoyed 

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