A radiant burst of color and joyfulness came alive at the Nov. 4 Diwali celebration in Richmond Hill, Queens, after the festival was almost sidelined by controversy and a protest rally that called for the organizer to be ousted.
The hundreds of spectators and celebrants who defied the heated disagreement and packed the seating area surrounding the cultural stage show at the intersection of Liberty Avenue and Lefferts Blvd., no doubt took to heart the symbolism of the spiritual victory of Light Over Darkness, and knowledge over ignorance, fostering unity and togetherness in the Hindu religion.
The event that kicked-off at 4 p.m. with vendor booths of food, sponsors, and celebratory items along a block of Liberty, and continued against a backdrop of “Happy Diwali” went on with a loud showcase. The melodious voices of the little Gods and Goddesses, featuring the National children’s Cultural Foundation Inc., and others, singing bhajan songs, and riveting choreography, set the tone for a wonderful observance.
Celebrants who were dressed in bejeweled Indian regalia, showed support for the festival, coming together in unity, with loud applause for the artistes who lit up the stage with their performances.
Punctuated by the lighting of the Diyas by members of the Divya Jyoti Association of New York, the show went on with singing, dancing, and the beats of rhythmic Tassa drumming. A parade of God and Goddesses brought beauty, and enjoyment to the historic event.
Three bejeweled Diwali Goddesses were presented with monetary prizes, from Sanjay Maharaj Events during the enchanting festival, that received praise from the pandit in attendance, who thanked organizers for the successful presentation.
Co-emcees Beauty Queen Miss Lotus 2023 Saleena Ram and Dev Dilchan delighted the audience bringing to the stage, versatile, and Bollywood-style performers Sanasani Dance Group, who, among other talented dancers put on an exceptional performance.
Diwali the festival of lights, now, officially a New York City public school holiday signed into law by Mayor Eric Adams, and takes effect in 2024, was praised for bringing the community together.
Guyanese-born Richard David, District 31 leader, expressed gratitude to organizers. I know a lot of you know what has been going on in our community, he said, in reference to the disagreement, adding, “it’s incredible to see this amazing crowd. The organizers went through a hard time to get here to make sure we get Diwali in our community.”
“I’m so grateful to the organizers for creating this experience for people like me and for young kids who are looking forward to celebrating culture and religion and being together. Light always wins out over darkness, he said, adding that this year is extra special, because Diwali becomes a public-school holiday in New York.
“Thanks to Lakshmee Singh and all the people, and the Mandirs who put this together. Thank you for coming out. Thank you for making Little Guyana a beautiful place I call home,” said David.
Lakshmee Singh, in turn, thanked everyone who supported Diwali 2023, saying her favorite part of the event was the parade of the Gods & Goddesses on Liberty Avenue. “I want to wish everyone a happy Diwali, may Mother Lakshmi come into your homes, bring you light, wealth, happiness, and health, Sitaram!,” she said.