Hundreds of devotees from around the state of New York came together at the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Flushing, NY on November 12, to celebrate Diwali, the festival of lights. Across North America, thousands of volunteers had begun preparations months in advance of the festivities – from design, creation and decoration to food preparation for the Annakut (offering of vegetarian dishes to Bhagwan).
Celebrating Diwali with great enthusiasm and excitement inspires every generation of Indians to honor their deep rooted Hindu heritage. The five days of Diwali are filled with optimism and enthusiasm as volunteers and devotees work side by side, looking past their differences, to build the Annakut and prepare for Diwali events at each mandir.
Inspired by His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj, the spiritual leader of BAPS, devotees welcome guests to the mandir and offer well wishes for the New Year. Swamis visit with community members to offer their prayers for peace and prosperity among families. This year, BAPS Mandirs across North America marked the auspicious festival of Diwali with fireworks and cultural exhibitions so visitors would find their experiences both entertaining and educational.
“Diwali is my favorite festival because of the excitement that fills the air when the festival nears. But having recently migrated to US, I did not know what to expect.” said Manish Ahluwalia, “But after coming to the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Flushing, NY, I felt like I was in India. I experienced Indian 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 the 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 Sanjaybhai Barot, Mandir coordinator. “Preparations for the festivities begin months in advance. Devotees, young and old, sacrifice their time to help in creating decorations, food preparation, children’s Diwali celebration arrangements, as well as decorating the stage for the most significant ritual of Diwali, the Annakut,”said Arjunbhai Patel, Kitchen Coordinator. More than 1000 food items were displayed in front of Bhagwan for the Annakut.
Children’s Diwali Celebrations This year His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj celebrated Diwali and Annakut in Sarangpur, Gujarat, India. He blessed the devotees on the New Year day.
The BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS), a worldwide socio-spiritual organization is dedicated to community service, peace and harmony. Motivated by Hindu principles, BAPS strives to care for the world by caring for societies, families and individuals. Through social and spiritual activities, BAPS endeavors to produce better citizens of tomorrow who have a high esteem for their roots. Its 3,300 international centers support these character-building activities. Under the guidance and leadership of His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj, BAPS aspires to build a community that is morally, ethically and spiritually pure, and free of addictions.
His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj, the fifth spiritual successor of Bhagwan Swaminarayan, has inspired millions of people across the world to lead a God-centered, morally pure life. The present leader of BAPS, Pramukh Swami Maharaj has traveled extensively, emphasizing the importance of family harmony, community service and spiritual progress. He embodies the essence of Hindu life. His compassion for humanity, universal wisdom and striking simplicity has touched many world religious and national leaders.