CHICAGO: The BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Chicago, IL hosted a grand Diwali celebration on November 13, 2023, allowing the local community to immerse in the deep-rooted traditions of the Festival of Lights.
Diwali, the revered Hindu ‘festival of lights’, celebrates the triumph of light over darkness, and good over evil.
“I just love the fact that this is such a family and community-oriented space. I think that oftentimes when you are out in the world, you can feel disconnected or that you do not belong anywhere.
Spaces like this bring people together and remind them that they are connected and that there are people out there who share the same traditions and values. That is really important, especially for the youth,” shared Karina Villa, State Senator representing the 25th District, Illinois
Devotees and visitors were welcomed with grace at the mandir’s entrance, where colorful decorations, including a beautifully intricate rangoli. This artistic display not only added to the festive atmosphere but also served as a fitting introduction to the rich cultural heritage celebrated locally and nationally at the BAPS Swaminarayan Akshardham in Robbinsville, NJ.
Another feature was the ‘Annakut’, where great number of vegetarian dishes were offered as a token of gratitude to the divine, symbolizing abundance and the community’s devotion for God and for the New Year, celebrated by some Indian-Americans from the northern and western regions of India. Devotees, young and old, had poured weeks of preparation into ensuring the Annakut was a feast for both the eyes and the soul.
“The annakut preparation begins very early in the morning for us,” explained Jasmine Patel, a BAPS youth volunteer. “The vegetarian food is traditionally arranged in tiers or steps in front of the sacred images of God. Today over 1,000 food items have been offered on this day of celebration and appreciation.”
For families, volunteers organized an array of children’s activities, allowing younger generations to bond with their cultural roots while partaking in the festivities. These encompassed storytelling sessions, craft workshops, and traditional games to engage all that took part in the celebrations.
The spiritual head of BAPS, Mahant Swami Maharaj sent blessings to all devotees and well-wishers for Diwali. He encouraged all to find the light within them and make it shine brighter by incorporating unity, values, spirituality, and a spirit of giving.
BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha is a volunteer-driven spiritual organization committed to fostering individual growth through Hindu values of faith, service, and harmony.
It enriches society with the devoted efforts of tens of thousands of volunteers from diverse professional and social backgrounds, contributing millions of volunteer hours annually. It nurtures Hindu traditions in over 100 North American and 3,500 communities worldwide. Through these communities, it champions holistic personal growth, promotes social progress, and encourages diversity by embracing all. For more details, please visit www.baps.org.