Atlanta, GA, November 3, 2022: On October 24, 2022, colors, lights, and food fused with joy and tradition, as Diwali – The Festival of Lights – was celebrated at the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Atlanta, GA. 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.
“BAPS Atlanta Mandir has been my home to connect with all kinds of people who have become my family. Diwali is a celebration of that family connecting to our inner faith” said Jaykishan Patel
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 Rachel Patel “The vegetarian food is traditionally arranged in tiers or steps in front of the sacred images of God. The wide variety of sweets and vibrant colors within the Annual Annakut light up the atmosphere and pave the way for an exciting start to the New Year. Today over 2000 food items have been offered to God.”
“Festivals like Diwali are celebrated with family and friends. When you are far away from home and family, the mandir provides that warm feeling of comfort as if you are home.” said Shreya Patel. George Lunkin, Associate Director of Financial Aid at Emory University comments, “When I think Diwali, I think of community. Coupling that with a New Year Celebration that promotes love, community, inclusion, and lots of festivities. Hearts and arms are opened, and everyone is welcomed to join in! And let’s not forget the food…OMG, the best!!
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 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, 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 for 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.