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Colorful Diwali celebrations at the Georgia State Capitol by BAPS

By Mahadev Desai
December 2016
Colorful Diwali celebrations at the Georgia State Capitol by BAPS

Diwali celebrations with annakut at the Georgia State Capitol. (Photo: BAPS)

BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha hosted a colorful 2nd annual Diwali Celebration at the Georgia State Capitol, on Wednesday, November 2, 2016. The event was graced by Consul General Nagesh Singh, accompanied by his wife Pragya Singh, Consuls D. V. Singh and Timothy Jetty from the Consulate of India in Atlanta, government officials, and representatives of various Indian community organizations.

Guests began arriving around 10am and after cheerfully exchanging Diwali and New Year wishes, admired the colorful rangoli and artistic and decorative miniature annakut elegantly set up in the atrium of the south wing of the Capitol, and posed for photographs.

Jigar Patel gave the welcome, explaining the significance of Diwali: “It is certainly an honor to bring a festival that dates back 5,000 years to our own Georgia Capitol.” Diwali is a “mosaic of color, pageantry, beauty, delicacies, music, dance, and ritual. … We are all on a daily quest to celebrate the good, light, and love in us. Today’s symbolic décor and diyas represent Enlightenment over blind faith; Prosperity over poverty; Knowledge over ignorance; Good Health and well-being over disease; and Freedom over bondage. It is an honor to celebrate Diwali here and we are extremely thankful.”

Akshar, Pinkesh, and Daxesh Patel recited the Shanti Path mantra from the Vedas for world peace.

Kunj Pandya echoed the wishes expressed on Diwali day by President Obama, "Today, Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, and Buddhists—some of the world’s oldest religions—light the Diya with family and friends. You celebrate life’s blessings…." Kunj invited the gathering to light two symbolic diyas in the community, the first light being in the form of a voice, a light that removes the darkness of silence that our community has lived in while our parents built such a sturdy foundation. He stressed the importance of the vote in the current election and all upcoming elections, and to participate in the affairs of government in order to share some of community's best practices with others in need.

Kunj quoted President George W. Bush: “By celebrating their beliefs, ancestry, and culture, Hindus in America and around the world enrich communities and ensure that important values and customs are passed on to future generations." He urged all also to serve other communities with the lessons we have learned, to uplift the nation. “Beyond any religion or nationality, let us light a diya internally which not only removes the darkness of ignorance but defeats an even greater enemy, the darkness of ego. The light is of course, the gentle flame of humility. As much as Diwali is a festival of celebration, it is even more so an opportunity to serve God with a beautiful offering, annakut or literally 'mountain of food,' and to commit to serving our fellow men and women with mountains of kindness.”

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Consul General Nagesh Singh (Above), cheerful as ever, wished all a Very Happy Diwali and New Year. “It feels very special to celebrate Diwali in the temple of democracy…. What President Obama said is very telling, because in every culture and every society human beings aspire for, that light prevails; knowledge prevails; goodness prevails. It is important to know the relevance of Diwali especially in current time when there is so much discord in various parts of the world. … We can set an example for those who have fear of the other and fear of the unknown and show that we can live and prosper peacefully together. I congratulate BAPS for hosting the Diwali celebration here.”

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(Left) Speakers Dov Wilker, Rep. Pedro Marin, CG Nagesh Singh, Melvin Everson, and Senator Steve Henson. (Photo: BAPS)

Steve Henson (​see photo), Democratic leader in the GA Senate, greeted all on behalf of Governor Deal and the legislature and exhorted the gathering and community members to interact with the Senators to discuss issues affecting them and to work together to find solutions.

Melvin Everson (see photo), Executive Director of the GA Commission on Equal Opportunity, said, “I consider you as Americans in this State of Georgia and in this country, and I look forward to working with you.”

National Association of Asian American Professionals (NAAAP) - Atlanta’s Baoky Vu thanked BAPS Mandir for giving him an opportunity to celebrate Diwali and diversity: “We are part of a large mosaic. I urge you all to spread this message of light and peace throughout the country. In this day and age, it is important to spread knowledge as opposed to ignorance.”

GA State Representative Pedro Marin (see photo) said, “I represent one of the most diverse districts in Georgia. It is an honor and pleasure to represent and interact with different races and ethnicities at events I am invited to attend.” He urged all, in this critical election cycle, to look at the candidates and vote. “People often ask me ‘How do we get power?’ My answer is ‘Go and Vote.’”

Dov Wilker (see photo), Regional Director of American Jewish Committee Atlanta, said “I am proud to be with you today. This ability of us to celebrate together, to welcome each other at festivals makes the U.S. a wonderful place. There is great similarity between Judaism and Hinduism. While the Jewish community in India is quite small, the number of Jewish tourists travelling to India is quite large. It is very important for us to celebrate together, and to continue and grow our friendship. Allow me to wish you all a good, sweet, and happy Diwali.”

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(Left) BAPS ladies at the Georgia State Capitol. (Photo: BAPS)

Jigar Patel noted that BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Lilburn is the largest tourist attraction in Gwinnett County and continues to drive economic growth in the area, and that “we are proud to be a part of the growth that has made Georgia the number one state for business.”

Ritesh Desai thanked all, including a great friend and supporter who could not attend, GA State Rep. B. J. Pak, and packets of Diwali sweets were presented to all.

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Website Bonus Feature

Links 2015:
http://www.khabar.com/magazine/around-town/historic-first-diwali-celebration-at-the-georgia-state-capitol
http://www.baps.org/News/2015/BAPS-Celebrates-Diwali-at-the-Georgia-State-Capitol-Building-8859.aspx

Photo Gallery 2015:
BAPS Celebrates Diwali at the Georgia State Capitol Building, Atlanta, GA, USA
13 Nov 2015
http://www.baps.org/Photos/2015/Georgia-Capitol-Diwali-2015-11015.aspx?mid=80807



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