Thousands celebrate Diwali at BAP'S Edison, New Jersey


Step into Edison’s BAPS Shri Swaminarayan temple on Sunday, and the first thing you notice is the thousands of people gathering for a Diwali celebration.

The second thing you notice is the colors.

Hundreds of blue and yellow sweets — an offering to god — are stacked high on red risers. Pink and orange sand creates swirling patterns on the floor. Women in purple, green and gold saris serve food to visitors.

Diwali celebrates the triumph of good over evil and is one of the most important events on Hindu, Jain, Sikh and some Buddhist calendars. The celebration in Edison drew 10,000 people throughout the day. It mimicked the festivities going on in the streets of India while giving Hindus a chance to pass on their religion’s values locally.

“Just to keep the heritage of nonviolence, vegetarianism, and brotherly-love,” Praful Raja, a lead volunteer said. “That is a critical thing.”

Diwali has gained visibility in American culture in recent years as California’s Disneyland and New York’s Time Square host celebrations. On Friday, President Donald Trump issued a statement, wishing devotees a “blessed and happy celebration.”

The holiday brings people together from across the state and has been observed in homes and temples in New Jersey for decades. But this year was extra special to the Hindus gathered in Edison, where almost half of the population is Asian, according to the U.S. Census.

It was the first time they celebrated the holiday in their new temple.

The 150,000-square-foot building usually accommodates about 2,000 devotees on a normal weekend, so adding 8,000 more people called for hundreds of volunteers and weeks of logistical planning, said Dharini Amin, a volunteer from Somerset.

There were volunteers organizing parking at the adjacent elementary school, and other volunteers helping people off shuttle buses when they arrived at the temple. More volunteers were ready with plastic bags to store shoes, while others greeted attendees and tied a red and white string bracelet around their wrists for good luck.

Then there were dozens of others running security, food stalls, and prayer ceremonies.

Children in colorful clothes chased each other, weaving in between the crowds of adults, while teenagers stood by educational booths, ready to explain basic tenants of the faith.

“Our goal is to really involve as much youth as possible, to preserve the culture and the traditions,” said Avani Patel, a volunteer from Edison. “Of course, you can’t force anyone to do anything, but (we want) to be able to (give) them some amount of exposure, to tie back to their roots.”

Edison, which has a growing Indian population, will close its public schools on Monday in observance of the five-day festival. While several New Jersey businesses closed early on Friday.

Sunday’s event attracted several government officials from Edison as well as Assemblywoman Nancy Pinkin (D- 18th district). They watched as the priest climbed onto the stage during the prayer service. He rotated a candle in the air, invoking the power of god.

Several attendees followed along, rotating their own candles, bringing an end to the festival of lights ceremony — until hundreds of more people streamed in, doing the exact same thing an hour later.


Post a Comment

Post a Comment (0)

#buttons=(Accept !) #days=(20)

Our website uses cookies. Learn..
Accept !
To Top