Colors, Lights and Food Mark Joyous Diwali Celebrations at BAPS Mandir

HOUSTON: On October 21st, 2022, colors, lights and food fused with joy and tradition, as Diwali – The Festival of Lights – was celebrated at the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Houston.  Diwali is the most widely celebrated festival by Indian and Hindus around the world. October is being celebrated as Hindu Heritage Month, and community leaders as well as policy makers, including Governor Greg Abbott, are participating in lighting lamps and offering best wishes for the festivities.

Visitors were greeted with a festive and traditional welcome at the mandir entrance by a colorful Rangoli, an ornate floor design made from colored powder, displaying various traditional Hindu symbols.

This year a special one of its kind aerial light tribute was the highlight of the evening. Colorful drone lights iconized the dark skies with teachings of His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj. The message of love, humility, faith and unity amongst all.

Visitors were awed with use of technology to give a universal tribute and a spiritual message to the community.

“It’s great to be starting the year off with family, friends, and community members.” said Ushma Prajapati. “The drone show was the most exciting part of the Diwali festivities for me not only did it remind us what a great spiritual leader Pramukh Swami Maharaj was but how we can imbibe his teachings in our lives.”

In preparation for the festivities, many devotees, young and old, gave their time to help create decorations, prepare for children’s Diwali, and set the stage for the most significant ritual of Diwali, ‘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,” explained Mansi Inamdar of the BAPS youth wing. “The vegetarian food is traditionally arranged in tiers or steps in front of the sacred images of God. Today over 750 food items have been offered to God.”

“Diwali is my favorite festival because of the excitement that fills the air when the festival nears.” said Ushma Prajapati, “After coming to the mandir today, I experienced my culture while getting a taste of fine Indian cuisine. Every person I met had an expression of warmth and happiness on their face.”

At mandirs across North America, the glow of the lights, bright colors, and festive ambiance at the mandirs welcomed visitors as they took in the colors of the rangoli. Visitors joyfully offered prayers for the year ahead, and had the opportunity to partake in prasadam (sanctified food).

Diwali traditions are founded in deep spiritual meaning and encourage communities to reflect at each step of the celebrations. The ancient tradition of lighting diyas, or traditional lamps, symbolizes the transition from darkness to light. While the lamps lit on Diwali erase the physical darkness, the festival’s rich traditions and rituals help individuals remove the darkness from within, in forms of anger, envy, greed, arrogance, and resentment. The celebrations and traditions observed during the Diwali period present an opportunity to reflect and introspect on one’s personal, professional, and spiritual growth, and to start anew.

The multiple days of Diwali are steeped in traditions and rituals that symbolize new beginnings and a renewed commitment to family. The bright colors of Rangoli, the lamps, the elaborate offering of vegetarian food (Annakut) to God, all mark a renewal of the good within and the goodwill towards all around us.

This year His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj celebrated Diwali and Annakut in Gondal, in the state of Gujarat in India. He blessed the devotees for a happy and peaceful new year. He also stressed that since this year is also the centennial celebration of HH Pramukh Swami Maharaj, may all be blessed to live according to his virtuous life.