Revelers celebrate Diwali

By Steve Mosco

Bright decorations adorned in a myriad of colors and lights lit up the dusk as revelers gathered to celebrate Diwali in Richmond Hill Saturday.

The festival of lights is observed by Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists and others in South Asia. The five-day festival is centered on the new moon and is observed by lighting diyas — simple oil lamps — to signify the victory of good over evil in the individual.

Presented by the Divya Jyoti Association and the Arya Spiritual Center, the celebration kicked off at the Arya Spiritual Center grounds, at 104-20 133rd St.

“Every year people come out and decorate in honor of the Goddess Lakshmi. We only have two major holidays in the Hindu religion. We’re looking to make Diwali a major community event, and it has been growing. We’re very excited about it,” said Lakshmee Singh, one of the founding members of the Arya’s festivities.

Diwali celebrations span a five-day period, each day being assigned a special significance as ordained by Hindu doctrine. The first day of Diwali, known as “Dhan-trayodashi,” is a day during which one gives thanks for all spiritual and material wealth in one’s life.

Jamaica resident Meera Singh said Diwali always reminds her of her native Trinidad, where she was born, raised and spent many years celebrating this festival of lights.

“I grew up into the religion,” said Singh, who spent the holiday in Richmond Hill for the first time. “In Trinidad at this time of year, we have a big celebration for the festival of lights, and I wanted to see if it was as big here as it is there.”

The party did not reach the heights of previous years, however, as the annual motorcade had to be canceled because there were not enough police officers to block off Liberty Avenue. Many members of the NYPD have been engaged in hurricane relief efforts in Queens and other parts of the city.

But the stationary nature of this year’s celebration did not dampen the spirits of those who attended since they felt even more motivation to have fun and appreciate their neighbors, especially in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

Lolita Maharaj, of Richmond Hill, said the parade helps bring the community together, especially youngsters, and is exactly what the community needs as neighboring areas continue to rebuild.

“It’s tradition,” she said. “It’s not just one celebration this year. It comes every year and no storm can stop it. We really cherish it and will always celebrate it.”

Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at smosco@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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