More than 1,000 Indian Americans in the greater-Seattle area gathered at the Redmond Senior Center on Oct. 30 to celebrate Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights.
As the most widely celebrated Hindu festival, marking the victory of good over evil and the beginning of the Hindu New Year, Diwali is a time when Hindus throughout the world go to Mandirs for darshan and pray for both forgiveness and success in the coming year. People illuminate their homes with colorful lights, wear new and traditional clothes, share sweets, and send well wishes to family and friends.
The celebration at the senior center was hosted by the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Sanstha, a worldwide socio-spiritual organization in Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations dedicated to community service, peace and harmony.
Attendees were greeted with a traditional welcome and prayer by children and then guided through photo and interactive exhibits on the five days of Diwali. The theme was an Indian village with a life-size bull pulling a cart and giant vegetable rangoli placed in the center of the hall.
“Just as everyone experienced joy today, every day would be Diwali, if we rid ourselves of ignorance,” said Umesh Amin, who attended the celebration. “Diwali is a festival to be aware of the inner light of God, and once we understand this, we will experience joy in every moment of our lives.”
The Oct. 30 event marked the culmination of weeks of planning and preparation, setting the stage for the most significant ritual of the Diwali events: 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,” Mehul Suthar of the BAPS youth wing said. “The vegetarian food is traditionally arranged in tiers or steps in front of the idols of God. The sweets are placed nearest. As the tiers descend, other foods such as vegetables, pulses and fried savories are arranged. A mound of cooked rice, symbolic of Mt. Govardhan, is placed in the center. Today over 350 food items have been offered to God.”
Congressman Jay Inslee as well as Hindu Temple Chairman Suri Raman were in attendance to wish everyone a happy and prosperous new year.