(Click on thumbnails for high-resolution view)
Atlanta, GA: While celebrating traditional festivals within one’s homeland is fairly commonplace, maintaining the practice in a distant land can be difficult but remains essential in passing on culture, meaning, importance, and traditions to future generations. For Hindus, Diwali presents one such opportunity to renew the rich traditions of their roots with great fanfare as well as a chance to reflect and introspect. Realizing these important facts, His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj, the spiritual leader of BAPS, inspires programs to celebrate Hindu festivals, such as Diwali and the New Year, at BAPS centers worldwide. Such grand festivities were held in many communities including at the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Lilburn, Georgia from November 2, 2013 through November 4, 2013.
The foundation of Diwali is based in the belief of dispelling darkness with light. While candles are lit to remove darkness, more important is the recognition of the darkness within human nature manifested through destructive emotions such as anger, envy, greed, arrogance and hatred. This auspicious occasion serves as a reminder to make a sincere effort to recognize and eradicate these qualities from one’s life. The bright colors of Rangoli (ornate designs made of colored powder), the candles, the elaborate offerings of vegetarian food (Annakut) to God, all mark a renewal of virtues within oneself and goodwill toward others.
“It is just absolutely mind-blowing to see all of this, the decorations, the food, and the amazing fireworks show. [I] feel like I am back in India and I’m so glad because my children get to celebrate Diwali and understand the traditions that come with the festival. It truly is something that everyone should experience.” said Mrs. Jyoti Patel, mother of three.
The celebrations also included the Children’s Diwali Celebration, where children had the opportunity to participate in various games and activities. “It was so much fun, the games and the food were amazing,” said Khush Patel, a BAPS youth. “It was even more great because I got to hang out with my friends and I learned a lot about how to celebrate Diwali with my family that I didn’t know before.”
With many of all ages in attendance, the BAPS Diwali celebration welcomed all to take in the scene of the bright colors of the Rangoli and traditional attire. Inside, people witnessed a diverse offering of food before the murtis of God. Excitedly, they pointed at the dishes they liked and expressed curiosity about the ones less familiar. The dedication and tireless efforts of the volunteers was evident in every aspect of the celebration. They offered prayer, expressed their wishes for the year ahead, and even had the opportunity to partake in the offerings.