In Diwali celebrations, Hindus assimilate in America

Christmas, Yom Kippur and, increasingly, the Eid celebrations after Ramadan are ingrained in the national consciousness as days of significance. … Continued

Christmas, Yom Kippur and, increasingly, the Eid celebrations after Ramadan are ingrained in the national consciousness as days of significance.  An understanding exists that these days are infused with a significance that transcends orthodoxy and somehow corrals even the casual observers.  Churches, synagogues and mosques see their flock at their fullest and penance is followed by celebration, piety with parties.

The Dharma traditions as diverse as they are, find common ground in a celebration that will make stars a bit harder to see as South East Asia whites out the night sky.  For tonight, over a billion Hindus, Jains and Sikhs from India to Singapore and Nepal to Sri Lanka (and America!) are literally turning on the lights.  Cities are bedecked with lights and rows of small earthen lamps are arrayed across homes to celebrate the festival of Diwali.



Indian dancer, Khyati Mehra performs during a pre-Diwali celebration at the central jail in Amritsar on October 23, 2011.

A contraction from the Sanskrit word Deepavali, that literally means rows of earthen lamps, the day has varied religious significance for Hindus, Jains and Sikhs.  But the metaphysical import is the same across all traditions: let the lighting of the Diwali lamp illuminate and vanquish the dark forces–the vices–that abound in the recesses of the intellect. The light symbolizes the victory of knowledge over ignorance, and goodness over evil and awakens an an awareness of God in every life.

Diwali is celebrated over two weeks, and is a period of extended holidays in Southeast Asia.  The merriment is as ubiquitous and palpable as the last two weeks of December here, but too easily becomes a blip in the lives of Hindu Americans.  Absent a concerted effort to mark the days by celebrants, Diwali easily slips by in the routine humdrum of daily life.

This week, the U.S. Senate, that otherwise seems inordinately occupied by the drama of inaction, came together to pass a resolution recognizing the spiritual and historic significance of Diwali to Dharma adherents by unanimous consent.  A similar resolution passed both congressional houses in 2007, and the latest version introduced by Sen. Robert Menendez (R-NJ) and co-sponsored by Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tx.) and Sen.Mark Warner (D-Va.).

As Sen. Cornyn told the Hindu American Foundation (HAF) that worked with the Senate offices to pass the resolution, “The message of tolerance, compassion, and victory of goodness over evil taught by Diwali presents reason for us all to celebrate, regardless of our religious or ethnic background, and as Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, and others come together to celebrate the festival of lights, we are reminded that as Americans, we cherish our right to freedom of religion.”

The White House will host a ceremony marking Diwali this week–Hindus will hold their breath that the President will make an appearance as he did in 2009–and again Diwali will take another step closer to the American lexicon.  It is the latter goal that drives advocacy groups such as HAF (Disclaimer: I sit on the Board of Directors) to work to pass resolutions and create toolkits for parents to use at their children’s school.  



Students put the finishing touches to a rangoli, or a mural made out of coloured powders, at a school ahead of Diwali festival celebrations in Jammu October 24, 2011.

For when Diwali matures beyond an interesting, exotic blip on the calendar, and into a day of palpable import in the lives of more than two million Americans, in the mainstreaming of a festival will lie the narrative of assimilation of Hindus, Jains and Sikhs.  This quest for Diwali resonates with the very American ethos of pluralism, and Hindus today will invite all Americans to join in a celebration that epitomizes the ancient Sankrit paean to peace:

From the Unreal, Lead us to Truth;

From Darkness, Lead use to Light;

From Death, Lead us to Immortality.

Aseem Skuhkla is associate professor in urologic surgery at the University of Minnesota medical school. Co-founder and board member of Hindu American Foundation.

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  • ccnl1

    Hinduism (from an online Hindu site) – “Hinduism cannot be described as an organized religion. It is not founded by any individual. Hinduism is God centered and therefore one can call Hinduism as founded by God, because the answer to the question ‘Who is behind the eternal principles and who makes them work?’ will have to be ‘Cosmic power, Divine power, God’.”

    The caste/laborer system, reincarnation and cow worship/reverence are problems when saying a fair and rational God founded Hinduism.”

    Current problems:

    The caste system, reincarnation and cow worship/reverence.

  • futuralogic

    “The Christian resolve to find the world evil and ugly, has made the world evil and ugly.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

  • futuralogic

    An excellent essay from Aseem. Yes, Yes and Yes to

    Om asato ma sadgamaya,
    tamaso ma jyotirgamaya,
    mrityorma amritamgamaya
    Om shantih shantih shantih

    Oh Almighty! Lead us from the unreal (falsity)
    to the real (truth) from darkness to light!
    From death to immortality!
    Oh Almighty! May there be Peace! Peace! Peace!

    brihdaranyaka upanisada 1:3:27 – india

  • evolution3

    And yet, do you think Mr. Cornyn would look kindly on a Hindu running for the White House? We’re acceptable as long as we stay in our niche inoffensive roles but don’t try to play with the rich white Christian men.

  • evolution3

    Fairness and rationality have nothing to do with any religion. Just saying. Try reading the Old Testament for example, though you can find this stuff in the writings of every single religion.

  • ccnl1

    Continued from above:

    3., Luther, Calvin, Joe Smith, Henry VIII, Wesley, Roger Williams, the Great “Babs” et al, founders of Christian-based religions or combination religions also suffered from the belief in/hallucinations of “pretty wingie thingie” visits and “prophecies” for profits analogous to the myths of Catholicism (resurrections, apparitions, ascensions and immacu-late co-nceptions).

    Current problems:
    Adulterous preachers, pedophiliac clerics, “propheteering/ profiteering” evangelicals and atonement theology,

    4 Mohammed was an illiterate, womanizing, lust and greed-driven, warmongering, hallucinating Arab, who also had embellishing/hallucinating/plagiarizing scribal biographers who not only added “angels” and flying chariots to the koran but also a militaristic agenda to support the plundering and looting of the lands of non-believers.

    This agenda continues as shown by the ma-ssacre in Mumbai, the as-sas-sinations of Bhutto and Theo Van Gogh, the conduct of the seven Muslim doctors in the UK, the 9/11 terrorists, the 24/7 Sunni suicide/roadside/market/mosque bombers, the 24/7 Shiite suicide/roadside/market/mosque bombers, the Islamic bombers of the trains in the UK and Spain, the Bali crazies, the Kenya crazies, the Pakistani “koranics”, the Palestine suicide bombers/rocketeers, the Lebanese nutcases, the Taliban nut jobs, the Ft. Hood follower of the koran, and the Filipino “koranics”.

    And who funds this muck and stench of terror? The warmongering, Islamic, Shiite terror and torture theocracy of Iran aka the Third Axis of Evil and also the Sunni “Wannabees” of Saudi Arabia.

    Current crises:

    The Sunni-Shiite blood feud and the warmongering, womanizing (11 wives), hallucinating founder.

  • ccnl1

    Continued from above:

    Buddhism- “Buddhism began in India about 500 years before the birth of Christ. The people living at that time had become disillusioned with certain beliefs of Hinduism including the caste system, which had grown extremely complex. The number of outcasts (those who did not belong to any particular caste) was continuing to grow.”

    “However, in Buddhism, like so many other religions, fanciful stories arose concerning events in the life of the founder, Siddhartha Gautama (fifth century B.C.):”

    Archaeological discoveries have proved, beyond a doubt, his historical character, but apart from the legends we know very little about the circumstances of his life. e.g. Buddha by one legend was supposedly talking when he came out of his mother’s womb.

    Bottom line: There are many good ways of living but be aware of the hallucinations, embellishments, lies, and myths surrounding the founders and foundations of said rules of life.

    Then, apply the Five F rule: “First Find the Flaws, then Fix the Foundations”. And finally there will be religious peace and religious awareness in the world!!!!!

  • bloggersvilleusa

    “The White House will host a ceremony marking Diwali this week–Hindus will hold their breath that the President will make an appearance as he did in 2009”

    Whether Obama makes a personal appearance or not, he’s a Hindu who carries with at all times for personal worship an idol of the false Hindu “god” Hanuman. The Hindus even sent Obama a life-size statue of Hanuman in recognition of his worship.

    Google: Obama Hanuman

  • Shreekant1

    Happy Diwali, To everyone.. To me Diwali is not a festival which is bounded by a religion.. infact, it is a festival of faith and good thoughts.. it endorses the basic quest of human race.. knowledge, wisdom, truth,enlightening and peace..

    May this Diwali bring prosperity, peace and happiness to everyone’s life.. May goddess Laxmi bless everyone with prosperity

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