Councilman James Gennaro and local elected officials joined community leaders to host the New York City Council’s Diwali Festival at Queens College’s Lefrak Concert Hall on Saturday, Nov. 13.
The celebration, which is usually held every year at City Hall, was canceled last year due to COVID-19.
This year’s sold-out event was organized by Gennaro, who represents the 24th Council District, and District Leader Neeta Jain.
“I was thrilled to host this weekend’s Diwali event at Queens College. Diwali is a time to celebrate the triumph of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, and good over evil. It is a beautiful tradition, and I am honored to have played a role in bringing the festival to Queens this year,” Gennaro said.
Diwali — known as the festival of lights — is one of the major festivals celebrated by Hindus, Jains, Sikhs and even some Buddhists. Each religion has its own historical narrative behind the holiday. Diwali is widely observed among more than a billion people from a variety of faiths across India and its diaspora.
The five days of Diwali are marked by prayer, feasts, fireworks, family gatherings and charitable giving.
Deputy Consul General of India Dr. Varun Jeph, who was in attendance at the festival on Saturday, said Diwali truly reflects the American and Indian values of celebrating diversity and of embracing different cultures.
“New York is no stranger to Diwali and its symbolic relevance. It is very heartening to see the festival of lights being celebrated here with great joy and fervor — not only by the South-Asian community, but also by members of diverse ethnicities and nationalities, just like the Indian-American community celebrates Christmas and other festivals passionately and with great merriments,” Jeph said. “May the festival of lights bring joy, love, peace, prosperity and good health to everyone.”
The celebration at Queens College included a peace prayer by Dr. Krishna Pratap Dixit; a lamp lightning ceremony; and a Ganesh vandana prayer by the members of the Hindu Temple Society of North America. Performances included a Bollywood medley performed by Anadita Guha; Sarva Devatha Anjali performed by the Mukthambar Fine Arts Team; Nagade Sang Dhol Baje performed by Dr. Sumita Guha; and Masala Bhangra performed by Sarina Jain and her team.
Jain says she is looking forward to celebrating Diwali again at City Hall next year with more joy of having it as a New York City public school holiday.
“May the lamps (Diya) of Diwali (Deepavali) illuminate everyone’s life with happiness, peace and good health. Wish you and your family a very prosperous Diwali and a happy new year!” Jain said. “On this Diwali, let’s make a promise to bring lights into people’s lives who suffered during this pandemic, and also pray to god for good health and fortune for everyone.”
Other Queens elected officials, including City Council members Barry Grodenchik, Peter Koo and Assemblyman David Weprin, attended the event.
It was an honor for Grodenchik to once again co-sponsor the City Council’s Diwali event and to join his friends and neighbors for a beautiful celebration in Queens, he said.
“I cannot think of a better start to the holiday season,” Grodenchik said.
Koo, who was also a co-sponsor of this year’s event, wished everyone a blessed, healthy and prosperous holiday.
“Diwali is a festival of new beginnings and of light and hope,” Koo said. “May hope and light guide us all this Diwali and this holiday season!”
It was a pleasure for Weprin to celebrate Diwali at Queens College, he said.
“The festivities honored community advocates who have devoted their time, energy, and resources to improve the lives of countless NYC residents,” Weprin said. “Diwali is a holiday celebrating the victory of light over darkness. After another difficult year in the pandemic, it was comforting to gather in-person and take part in a ceremony acclaiming the ultimate triumph of good over evil.”