Nov. 9, 2023 By Ethan Marshall
Around 100 members of Queens’ Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh and Jain communities, along with local leaders, gathered together to celebrate Diwali at the Helen Marshall Cultural Center in Queens Borough Hall on Wednesday, Nov. 8.
Several Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh and Jain individuals and organizations were honored at the celebration as well.
The celebration kicked off with the lighting of the Diya lamp, which is meant to symbolize the holiday’s message of the triumph of good over evil and light over darkness.
Those honored at the Diwali celebration with citations included Ram Hardowar, Harish Chander Puri, Padma Likha Mangar, Sabita Das, the Gujarati Samaj of New York and the Sri Sri Krishna Balaram Mandir temple.
Hardowar spoke about the meaning of Diwali and the Diya.
“We are here in this world to help the other person, not to take,” Hardowar said. “We must be givers, not takers, contributors to society, not consumers alone. And that’s what Diwali is all about.”
Queens Borough President Donovan Richards also spoke about the importance of the holiday. He noted that now is more important than ever to be able to celebrate Diwali, considering the recent rise in hate crimes across the borough.
“It does feel different based on what we’re seeing happen internationally and it does impact us right at our front and back door because we are the most diverse county in the country,” Richards said. “We’ve celebrated Diwali every year since I’ve been elected borough president, but I think this year signifies a greater meaning and we will continue to go beyond words and really act with deeds as well to make sure that every community in this city feels that, especially this office, is a voice for them and a representative of them. As we celebrate Diwali let’s pledge, each and every one of us, to coexist peacefully, to strengthen our great borough and empower our communities to help create the borough and city and world that we want our future generations to be able to live in.”
Queens Assemblymember Edward Braunstein also acknowledged the importance of this event, especially with the current violence in the Middle East.
“Internationally, the world is going through a very difficult time,” Braunstein said. “We feel it here on the streets in Queens and it’s nice to be able to celebrate something positive, to celebrate Diwali with all of you, to celebrate light overcoming darkness. I’m honored to have fought to make Diwali a school holiday. It is a positive thing for you all and also for everyone else in the city, as we are given an opportunity to celebrate the South Asian community and teach our children about our neighbors’ cultures.”
The Diwali celebration at Queens Borough Hall was cosponsored by Geeta Temple Ashram, Om Shakti Mandir, Sri Krishna Bhakta Sangha, USA, Sri Sri Krishna-Balarama Mandir, Shiv Shakti Peeth and USA Pandits Parishad Inc.
Additional reporting by Paul Frangipane.