Chicago IL: A new year, a fresh new start. The ancient tradition of lighting lamps, during Diwali, symbolizes the transition from darkness to light and a celebration of good triumphing over evil. The physical act of lighting lamps on Diwali represents an individual’s efforts to remove the darkness from one’s self in forms of anger, envy, greed, arrogance, and resentment. Through its thought-provoking customs and traditions, Diwali presents a time to reflect and introspect for individuals, families, and communities.
Hindus and community members gathered at BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Bartlett, IL to celebrate Diwali, a five-day celebration that culminates with the Annakut celebration (a decorative offering of vegetarian sweets and food) on the Hindu New Year’s Day.
The five days of Diwali include a set of joyous cultural traditions that symbolize new beginnings. Individuals take this time to start anew and commit to spiritual growth and familial harmony. Diwali presents Hindus an opportunity to connect with and celebrate the traditions of their roots with fanfare and a sense of community. Hindu families celebrated the five days with lighted divos (candles), and rangoli (colorful drawings and sketches), fireworks, and a variety of food.
Local community member, Dr. Karishma Patel, stated, “I came back home from Boston just to celebrate Diwali with my family and friends. It’s so great to see fireworks and rangoli and celebrate this festival and our traditions together.” All attendees participated by offering prayers for new beginnings and partaking in the delicious offerings of the Annakut.
Each year, the Mandir celebrates with a themed exhibition, put together by volunteer adults and children, to highlight important cultural and traditional values. This year, themed “Timeless Truths”, the Mandir inspired visitors to bring in 2020 with a positive outlook, to overcome obstacles through faith, love and tolerance, and to seek guidance from our gurus to experience daily peace.
Upon seeing the number of volunteers who helped put together the celebration and all the participants, Consulate General of India, Mr. Sudhakar Dalela, stated, “The volunteers at BAPS are tremendous. Even children are volunteering their time to celebrate this momentous occasion!”
The celebrations were open to all communities, regardless of religion or background. Bartlett Police Officer, Kyle Rybaski has made it a point to visit the Mandir during Diwali in recent years noting, “I really enjoyed the message of having a positive outlook towards life and BAPS really gives back to the community so it’s so nice to give back to them and meet the community members here.”
Offering his prayers to Bhagwan Swaminarayan, spiritual leader of BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha, His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj prayed for devotees’ spiritual, personal, and professional growth in this new year. This Diwali, Mahant Swami Maharaj emphasized the importance of leading spiritually centered lives, grounded in strong values and increased attachment to God for individuals and families.
The BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS) is a worldwide spiritual and humanitarian organization that 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 various spiritual and humanitarian activities, BAPS endeavor to develop better citizens of tomorrow with high esteem for their roots and culture. Its 3,300 international centers support these character-building activities. Under the guidance and leadership of His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj, BAPS aspire to build a community that is free of addictions as well as morally, ethically and spiritually pure. For more details, please visit www.baps.org.