Local temple marks Diwali holiday with celebration, feast
More than 400 vegetarian food items lined the altar inside BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, a eindu temple Ln HDWfiHld, FUHDWLng D VWunning, colorful and fragrant feast for the eyes — and stomachs.
Called annakut, meaning “a mountain of food,” this offering is made to Bhagwan, the supreme being in einduism, as part of the celebration of Diwali.
Diwali is the most important holiday in the eindu faith, according to temple member Viraj Patel, comparable to Christmas and New Year’s Day.
“It’s celebrated really big in India — everything is shut down, and you save your best dress for this day,” she said.
Diwali is also called the Festival of Lights, and it sym- bolizes the “victory of good over evil and light over darkness,” said Mayank Amin, a spokesperson for the temple.
“It’s a celebration full of color, beauty and life. It’s what our culture is composed of,” he said. “It brings the community together and allows everyone to have a new start, correct mistakes and do better.”
DLwDlL LV D fiYH-dDy FHlebration, Amin said. The actual holiday took place Nov. 14 in India, but is celebrated on a Sunday so it doesn’t FRnflLFW wLWK wRUN VFKHdules.
In India, devotees decorate their homes for Diwali, special music is played and people go from one house to another to visit and eat, similar to how Christmas is celebrated in this country.
The local community was invited to the temple to take part in the celebration Sunday. Some members invited their co-workers and their families, and local dignitaries, including r.S. Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick, R-8, attended.
The temple was alive with DFWLYLWy — WKH KDll wDV fillHd with worshippers sitting on WKH flRRU Dnd VLngLng bHIRUH the food-covered altar, lunch for the estimated 1,500 attendees was being prepared in the kitchen and little girls were asking their mothers for money to get their nails painted.
Priyal Patel was one of the temple members who was doing mehndi, or applying henna tattoos, on women’s hands and arms. eenna stays on the skin for a few weeks, she said, and is usually done before a wedding ceremony and during holiday celebrations.
The large food offering is one of the highlights of Diwali, said Kamlesh Patel, community outreach coordinator for the temple.
Traditional Indian dishes, fresh fruits and vegetables and many American food items, such as eershey bars, were part of the offering on the altar. Later in the day, the food is eaten.
Patel explained that the temple hands out stainless steel bowls to members who want to cook, and a list is distributed about a month before so members can sign up to cook certain items.
The food is prepared the morning of the celebration.
“The food is mostly made by our moms, and they make vegetarian delicacies,” Amin said. “My mom was up at 3 a.m. making food. They put in that extra effort and it really creates a sense of togetherness.”
Celebrating Diwali is important to eindus in the rnited States, he said.
“We don’t want to lose that culture,” Amin said. “And by inviting the community, it gives our non-eindu guests a chance to learn about our culture.”
Members of the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Hatfield take part in a prayer as part of the Diwali celebration Sunday.
A cake made by members of BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Hatfield serves as the centerpiece of annakut, or “mountain of food.”
An elder blesses a younger member of the temple during the Diwali celebration.