PARSIPPANY — On Saturday, October 29, 2022, colors, lights, and food fused with joy and tradition, as Diwali – The Festival of Lights – was celebrated at the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir. Diwali is the most widely celebrated festival by Indians and Hindus around the world. October is being celebrated as Hindu Heritage Month, and community leaders as well as policymakers, including US President Joe Biden, are participating in lighting lamps and offering best wishes for the festivities.
Visitors were greeted with a festive and traditional welcome at the temple entrance by a colorful Rangoli, an ornate floor design made from colored powder, displaying various traditional Hindu symbols.
“It’s great to be starting the year off with family, friends, and community members,” said Dr. Raunaq Bhatt.
In preparation for the festivities, many devotees, young and old, gave their time to help create decorations, prepare for children’s Diwali, and set the stage for the most significant ritual of Diwali, ‘Annakut’. Annakut, which literally means ‘a mountain of food’, is traditionally offered to God to celebrate the beginning of the Hindu New Year.
“The preparation begins very early in the morning for us,” explained Seema Trambadia, a volunteer of BAPS. “The vegetarian food is traditionally arranged in tiers or steps in front of the sacred images of God. Today over 850 food items have been offered to God.”
“Diwali is my favorite festival because of the excitement that fills the air when the festival nears. Having recently migrated to the US, I did not know what to expect,” said Kishan Patel, “However, after coming to the mandir, I felt like I was back in India. I experienced my 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.”
At mandirs across North America, the glow of the lights, bright colors, and festive ambiance at the mandirs welcomed visitors as they took in the colors of the rangoli. Visitors joyfully offered prayers for the year ahead, and also had the opportunity to partake in prasadam (sanctified food).
Diwali traditions are founded in deep spiritual meaning and encourage communities to reflect at each step of the celebrations. The ancient tradition of lighting diyas, or traditional lamps, symbolizes the transition from darkness to light. While the lamps lit on Diwali erase the physical darkness, the festival’s rich traditions, and rituals help individuals remove the darkness from within, in the forms of anger, envy, greed, arrogance, and resentment. The celebrations and traditions observed during the Diwali period present an opportunity to reflect and introspect on one’s personal, professional, and spiritual growth, and to start anew.
The multiple days of Diwali are steeped in traditions and rituals that symbolize new beginnings and a renewed commitment to family. The bright colors of Rangoli, the lamps, and the elaborate offering of vegetarian food (Annakut) to God, all mark a renewal of the good within and the goodwill towards all around us.
This year His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj celebrated Diwali and Annakut in Gondal, in the state of Gujarat in India. He blessed the devotees with a happy and peaceful new year. He also stressed that since this year is also the centennial celebration of HH Pramukh Swami Maharaj, may all be blessed to live according to his virtuous life.
The BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS) is a spiritual, volunteer-driven organization dedicated to improving society through individual growth by fostering the Hindu ideals of faith, unity, and selfless service. Its worldwide network of 3,800 centers supports these character-building activities. Under the guidance and leadership of His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj, BAPS aspires 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.
About Mahant Swami Maharaj
His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj is the sixth and current spiritual successor of Bhagwan Swaminarayan. He has ordained a swami by Yogiji Maharaj in 1961 and named Sadhu Keshavjivandas. As he has appointed the head (Mahant) of the Mandir in Mumbai, he became known as Mahant Swami. His devout, humble, and service-focused life earned him the innermost blessings of Yogiji Maharaj and Pramukh Swami Maharaj. Mahant Swami Maharaj travels throughout the world inspiring people through his insightful spiritual discourses and disciplined conduct. His virtuous lifestyle and profound devotion to Bhagwan Swaminarayan and gurus are ideals toward which devotees strive. Mahant Swami Maharaj became the guru and President of BAPS upon Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s passing in 2016.
Pramukh Swami Maharaj
Pramukh Swami Maharaj was the fifth spiritual successor of Bhagwan Swaminarayan. Under his leadership, BAPS grew into an international spiritual and humanitarian organization with over 3,300 centers worldwide. He dedicated his life to the well-being of others, traveling throughout the world to foster love, peace, harmony, righteousness, faith in God, and service to humanity. With genuine care and compassion, he reached out to all members of society irrespective of class, color, or age. Recognized and respected as one of India’s greatest spiritual teachers, he lived by and promoted the principle: “In the joy of others, lies our own.”