For more than 600,000 New Yorkers, including those who identify as Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist, Diwali is one of the most sacred days of the year.
The Diwali holiday celebrates light over darkness, good over evil, and the human ability to overcome obstacles. Earlier this year, it even made headlines when Queens Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar led a successful effort to have Diwali declared a New York City public school holiday.
“Growing up it was always taught for us to celebrate Diwali,” said Adithya Shastry, of Morningside Heights, who grew up in Texas. “We'd always have to go to school, and it’s really great because this is our equivalent of Christmas.”
Shastry joined his sister and other close friends at the Bhakti Center in the East Village to celebrate the holiday Sunday. They were glad to hear that moving forward, New York City’s public school students will be able to celebrate Diwali with their families, without having to worry about missing school.
“Now that we actually get a day off, we don’t have to worry about back tracking any of the work that we're doing or asking for a break or anything like that,” said Mahati Shastry, also of Morningside Heights.
“Where I come from, Diwali is a holiday, so I was surprised that it wasn’t here, so I think it’s a great thing,” said Trisha Ramdhoni, who grew up outside the United States and now lives in Astoria.
The Diwali gathering in the East Village was also attended by Mayor Eric Adams. He jumped from borough to borough Sunday night to attend Diwali celebrations in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Staten Island.
“It is imperative that all of us are not only recognizing Diwali in beautiful places like this, but Diwali must be in our street corners, Diwali must be in our schools," Adams said.