Many Public school districts in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania have already declared a day off for Diwali
There has been an estimated 1 million increase in Hindus in the USA making it 1% of its total population
Rajan Zed, a social activist, says it is important to meet the religious and spiritual needs of Hindu people
June 26, 2017: Hindu citizens of the Texas city in the USA are promoting all public school districts and private-charter-independent schools to stay closed on Diwali, which is the most celebrated and famous festival of Hindus and is to be observed on October 19 this year.
Many public school districts in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania have already declared a day off for Diwali, while others are still considering this decision. Zed suggested all Texas schools, public-private-charter-independent, to seriously deal with this matter for ensuring the connection between spirituality and education. This, in turn, will lead to culturally and religiously enlightened citizens of tomorrow.
According to a social activist, Rajan Zed, it would be a step in the positive direction, as it was important to meet the religious and spiritual needs of Hindu people.
Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, insists schools on making attempts to accommodate the religious requirements of Hindu students and show respect to their faith by not carrying out daily business and taking classes on Diwali. He does not want students to bear an unwanted disadvantage for missing important assignments and work at school by taking a day off to observe Diwali. He urged Texas Governor Greg Abbott, Texas Commissioner of Education Mike Morath and Texas State Board of Education Chair Donna Bahorich to work towards adding Diwali as an official holiday in all the state’s public schools and motivating others to follow.
Zed asked schools to consider Diwali holiday on par with other religious holidays. He focused on equality of all religions without discriminating or isolating some. There has been an estimated 1 million increase in Hindus in the USA making it 1% of its total population. Zed further stressed the importance of Diwali being the festival of victory of good over evil and the value it holds to the Hindu culture which is also one of the richest cultures in the world.
If one wants to connect Hindu culture with the senseless bursting of crackers and boisterous fun then he is absolutely wrong. There is no mention in any corners of the voluminous scriptures of Fireworks blasting during a PUJAS that “upset” the harmony of peace and tranquility of others. To disturb others’ tranquility falls under the heading of vices. Preserving the sanctity of the environment, and more importantly, inner purity of mind and heart is the “prime doctrine” of SANATAN DHARMA which is popularly known as Hinduism. This Hindu culture now seemingly run the risk of having been defined by other communities with what is not very pleasant to hear.
I’ve overheard many toxic comments against this blatant desecration of auspicious “puja celebrations”. During Holi festival, many people fear to move out of their homes, particularly in certain the plane areas in India. You might be blasted with a bucketful of dirty water by pranksters from the 5th floor of the building. Is this sadism the part of the puja and holi celebration? One is afraid, with each passing year, this festival of color of joy, though having strong spiritual significance, has only painted the very face of Hindu culture with vulgarity and depravity.
Matter of fact, peace in one’s life and his efforts to help bring peace in others’ lives is essentially the fundamental basis of Hindu culture and festivals. Practically speaking, there is no devotion to God without “peace”. Therefore, “Shanti” (peace) is one of the most paramount peace mantras in Sanskrit, not “Ashanti” which, of late, is the hallmark of such Hindu puja celebrations. The profound objective behind this peace mantra, as propounded in Upanishads, inspired even one of the greatest poets of the 20th Century – TS Eliot who underlined it with the purpose of life which he brought out in his epic poem – The Waste Land. That poem finally ends with the same peace mantra — Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.
It should not be misunderstood ever that Hinduism disapproves of all kinds of fun and frolic. No, it is never so. We can have various kind of festival enjoyments but without ever causing problem to others and the environment. There are sufficient mentions of fun and frolic, merrymaking even in the spiritual activities — like Krishna Lila, Ram Lila…; and there exist endless nritya shashtras for healthy recreation. But they all are within the “purview of Dharma”. Ancient sages in their meditation conceived and authored a number of treatises in which we find the elaborate approaches and procedures to evolve oneself spiritually through fun-filled dances and music. There are “ragas and layas”(musical modes and rhythm), which are meant to “recharge” the mind for the meditative concentration. The objective behind being to climb up the ladders of realization of oneness and universal uniformity.
However, there is absolutely no scope or prescription for deriving pleasure or fun by causing pain and anxieties to others? How come bursting high decibel fireworks at 2 AM or 3 AM or 4 AM is puja? In fact, it is called “adharma” or irreligion leading to self-degeneration.
Therefore, it is DIYA, as per Vedas, which symbolizes the LIGHT to dispel the darkness of ignorance, the darkness of vices, and bring forth the light of knowledge to awake the “inherent” divinity. Goddess Laxmi is the “flame” of feminine ENERGY in the infinite cosmic creation. So, indulging in earsplitting fireworks and causing continuous problem to HER creatures, and HER environment, is totally against the fundamental principle of the devotion in Hinduism. Very sadly, with the blasting of the fireworks in the name of Goddess Laxmi we have invariably set off the tank of vices alone.
Salil Gewali is a well-Known Writer and Author of ‘Great Minds on India’. Twitter: @SGewali