A Festival of Lights – Diwali Celebrated at BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Chicago
Chicago IL: Bright lights, fireworks, colors, and delicacies, what can all these words represent? These are the words that signify one of the most renowned Hindu festivals, Diwali, or the “Festival of Lights”. This festival is celebrated by Hindus all around the world and symbolizes the victory of good over evil and light over darkness. Diwali is the last day of the Hindu calendar and is followed by New Year celebrations.
This year’s Diwali festival was celebrated with great devotion at the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Bartlett, IL. On November 13th, devotees gathered at the Mandir with family and friends to participate in the Chopda Pujan, a special ceremony for business owners to receive blessings for the upcoming New Year. This is traditionally the day when business owners close their existing account books for the year and open new ones in preparation for the upcoming year. Through chanting Vedic hymns and prayers, hundreds of ledgers were blessed during the ceremony.
On November 14th, devotees gathered early in the morning to offer their prayers on the first day of the New Year. They graciously greeted each other and spread wishes for a happy and prosperous New Year. All were dressed in traditional attire and shared mutual feelings of excitement and joy. The Mandir was packed for the first arti, a Hindu ritual of waving lighted wicks before the murti of Bhagwan as an act of spiritual enlightenment, which took place at 7 AM. Throughout the day, visitors poured in to the hourly services to see the beautifully arranged lights as well as rangolis, unique floor designs made with colored sand.
One of the unique aspects of celebrating the New Year is offering a feast of food items called Annakut, literally meaning “a mountain of food”. The devotees of the Mandir worked tirelessly for many weeks to prepare this colorful array of vegetarian food items to be offered to Bhagwan. This created a sense of togetherness amongst all who were involved. “I find great joy in volunteering here at the Mandir, said Khyati Anjaria. When we all work together, it’s always more enjoyable, and an event such as this can only be accomplished with unity.”
Despite residing in India, His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj continually inspires devotees all over the world to celebrate their Hindu heritage and customs. These festivals allow for families to meet and celebrate the Hindu festivals and pass on traditions to future generations. Nidhi Patel said, “My family and I always celebrate Diwali together and have done so for many years. In India, Diwali is a national festival and is annually celebrated all over the country. Being born and raised here in America, my parents have always stressed how extremely important it is for us to continue that tradition here.”
The BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS), a worldwide socio-spiritual organization in Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations, 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 a number of social and spiritual activities, BAPS endeavors to produce better citizens of tomorrow who have a high esteem for their roots – their rich Hindu culture. Its 3,300 international centers support these activities of character-building. 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.
About Pramukh Swami Maharaj:
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. As the present leader of BAPS, Pramukh Swami Maharaj travels from village to village, continent to continent, 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 have touched many world religious and national leaders. For more details visit www.baps.org
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