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A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

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Diwali Celebrations Create Meaningful Connections and Spark Creative Service
By ISKCON News Staff   |  Nov 15, 2023
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Bloomington devotees celebrate Diwali at local senior center.

Diwali celebrations have been happening worldwide, and for ISKCON devotees, these festivities can often create strong connections with their local communities and even inspire creative service opportunities. We looked at four examples, from Bloomington to Brooklyn and Utah to the UK.

Diwali, or the “Festival of Lights,” is a five-day celebration widely recognized as the Hindu New Year. It is traditionally marked by the illumination of candles or other lights in homes, temples, and public spaces, accompanied by the offering of lavish food preparations to the Lord. In ancient times, Diwali was first observed by the citizens of Ayodhya to celebrate the joyful return of King Rama, an incarnation of Krishna. In the West, Diwali is increasingly serving as a point of connection and interest for spiritual seekers, an “entry point” to learn about the philosophy and sacred texts behind the stories it celebrates. Here’s a look at four examples:

2nd Annual Diwali Festival at The Westminster Village in Bloomington, IL
On November 3rd, devotees in Illinois celebrated Diwali with the residents of The Westminster Village, a senior assisted living facility located in Bloomington, Illinois.

“It was such a great honor that the residents invited us again this year and allowed us to share our culture, offer some Kirtans, and invite residents to offer lamps in the auspicious month of Kartik,” said Prana-vallabha Das, community director of the local Hare Krishna community, “It turns out that this event is the most talked-about festival for the residents and they really looked forward to seeing us each year.”

About 150 residents attended this year, where devotees set up an altar, beautiful displays, and a book table. The festivities also included a presentation on Diwali and cultural dance performances led by Dr. Uma Kallakuri Mataji’s students. “They did a fabulous job representing the true spirit and culture of the Diwali festival,” remarked Prana-vallabha, who coordinated the event with Lisa Rattan, the Life Enrichment Coordinator at the Village.

Manor Students Present Diwali Performance at UK Charity
Year 5 and 6 (Vrindavan Class) Gurukula (Bhaktivedanta Manor) students were invited to Watford MENCAP to give a presentation about Diwali. MENCAP is a charity that provides support services for more than 4,500 people with learning disabilities who live in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. “The children gave a short play about Lord Rama and the meaning of Diwali as part of the performance,” said the Head Teacher, Gunacuda Dasi, “They ended their presentation with kirtan and distributed prasad sweets to the MENCAP clients and staff- many of whom said they will now visit Bhaktivedanta Manor.” Gunacuda noted that the children are always happy to visit different places and give presentations about various aspects of Krishna-conscious philosophy and beliefs.
You can see a beautiful video of photos from the event on their Instagram page.

Devotees Participate in Utah’s 19th Annual Diwali Celebration at the Governor’s Mansion
On November 8th, pioneering devotee Caru Das and musical artist Janardhan Das, AKA “The Butter Thief,” joined Utah state and local leaders for their annual Diwali event at the Governor’s Mansion. Caru Das, who has spoken at all 19 celebrations, opened the observances with an inspiring talk sharing lessons from the Ramayana punctuated with Ramayana rap music and Sita Ram kirtan with Janardhan.

“We always have a small altar set up, and the priest from Salt Lake City’s Sri Ganesha Temple chants the Sri Suktam and does a short Laksmi Puja during which the governor and his wife offer flowers.” From its inception nearly 20 years ago, the event has been sponsored by devotees Dinesh and Kalpana Patel, Ragula Bhaskar and Sanchaita Dhatt, Ashok and Surekha Joshi. You can learn more about the service of Utah devotees through their website or Facebook page.

ISKCON NYC Welcomes Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar and NYC Mayor to Sunday’s Festivities
On Sunday evening, thousands of Hare Krishna devotees welcomed New York State Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar (D-AD 38) and NYC Mayor Eric Adams to the ISKCON NYC Temple in Brooklyn. The visit was part of a “5 Borough Diwali Tour,” which involved visits to significant communities celebrating the holiday. The tour represents a recognition of the growing population of NYC residents celebrating this and other historic Asian festivals.

Thanks to Rajkumar’s efforts, Diwali is now an official school holiday in the Big Apple. NYC officials say that over 600,000 residents, including Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, and some Buddhists, celebrate the festival of Diwali. Among them are the many appreciative ISKCON devotees living in the NYC area. “Diwali is not just a celebration of the triumph of good over evil, but a festival to celebrate God’s reciprocation of love with all those who serve Him,” said Yasoda-dulal Das, who attends the NYC Bhakti Center, where Mayor Adams later joined 1,500 gathered for a celebration.

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