Diwali or Deepavali, the festival of lights, is the biggest festival of India that is celebrated with utmost enthusiasm. But the Indians who have moved abroad find they miss out on celebrating the festival with their families and following all the traditions that they hold dear. Here is how NRIs around the world have been celebrating:
Diwali with a twist at One World Trade Center
In the US, for the first time ever, a Diwali-themed mural was projected upon the One World Trade Center (1WTC). The beautiful animation went live on November 2 at 6 pm and continued till November 4. This was part of a three-day celebration named ‘All-American Diwali’. A spectacular fireworks display was also viewed by audiences on both sides of the Hudson.
The celebrations were organised by the New Jersey-based non-profit foundation, South Asian Engagement Foundation and Durst Organization. The entire experience was dedicated to the country’s first responders.
Rahul Walia, Founding Trustee of South Asian Engagement Foundation said, “There is no better symbol of the triumph of resiliency than the World Trade Center and we are very fortunate to work with The Durst Organization to bring this message to all.”
“We are excited to create and curate the colourful imagery of Diwali on the WTC podium to highlight the messages of peace, harmony, and unity,” said Mark Domino of the Durst Organization.
The NYPD conducted a ceremonial Colour Guard with One World Trade Center as the backdrop. American actor-singer Mary Millben performed the US national anthem and the Hindu hymn Om Jai Jagdish Hare. The key benefactors of the celebration included crypto exchange, CrossTower and Atlanta-based 27th Investments, a national investment firm.
The Indian diaspora served as community patrons and supporters include EQ Factor, Touchdown Media and Kawan Foods. Indian-American artist Varun Patel of Vichaar and Prem provided inspiration for the animation. ‘All American Diwali’ is a trademark and copyright of the South Asian Engagement Foundation.
Diwali, a federal holiday?
A day before Diwali in the US, lawmakers led by Congresswoman Carolyn B Maloney from New York, announced that a bill has been introduced in the House of Representatives to declare Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, a federal holiday.
Maloney said that Diwali this year symbolizes the nation’s continuing journey out of the darkness of Covid-19.
Celebrations start with the weekend
The student community in the US spoke of their experiences of celebrating Diwali. Krisha Vaghasia, an engineer in Washington said, “We were either working or studying during the week, so did not get any time to celebrate Diwali.
She added, “However, we will be decorating the house with fairy lights, diyas, cooking a lot of food together and consuming Indian sweets.”
Concert or Diwali? Let’s have both
The Indian diaspora in New Zealand has a unique way to celebrate Diwali. Every year, pre-Covid, they organised the Auckland Diwali Festival, which featured different activities, including a concert.
This year, which would have been the 20th Auckland Diwali Festival, shifted online due to the pandemic. The festival celebrates traditional and contemporary Indian culture and Auckland’s Indian communities. The event is delivered by Auckland Unlimited on behalf of Auckland Council, in partnership with the Asia New Zealand Foundation.
Though the celebrations shifted online, the city was decorated with colourful lights, and the online activities included crafts, cooking, music, dance and movies.
Lighting diyas in Canada
Diwali in Canada is celebrated among smaller community groups. According to Jaymin Patel, an engineer in Toronto, “We celebrate Diwali in the same way that we did in India. Lighting diyas, spending time with loved ones, going to the temple, having a good meal and bursting crackers.”
He added, “However, this year we might not go to the temple as the limit for group gathering is only 50 people in Canada.”