Diwali was celebrated last Saturday early evening on Liberty Avenue, near Lefferts Blvd, in the heart of Little Guyana in Queens, New York. Hundreds of thousands of Indians from the Caribbean are settled in the Queens area.
Diwali falls on Monday October 24 but public celebrations are held all over the USA where Hindus have established communities. Some school districts grant a holiday for Diwali. It is an excused school attendance day in New York City and excused parking but not a school holiday.
Politicians have scheduled Diwali celebrations in their offices in districts where large numbers of Hindus are settled.
For Hindus and most Indians, Diwali is the most joyful time of the year and Hindus everywhere is preparing for the celebration. Many non-Hindus graced the celebration.
In Richmond Hill, there was a cultural variety concert featuring artistes from several Mandirs and other Indian Caribbean organizations. Hundreds crowded the avenue, including Punjabis, in what community leader Dr Dhanpaul Narine described as the largest gathering since the celebration was moved from the Cheddi Jagan Square at 123rd Street at the Arya Samaj ground to 121st Street. Great cool weather welcome the large congregation who clapped and cheered the many presentations.
The Avenue was immaculately spruced up and lit up with multicolored electronic lights and traditional deyas. Stores sported Diwali paraphernalia and decorations. While the Caribbean Indians held their celebration in Richmond Hill, South Asians celebrated Diwali at magnificent Times Square at the same time in the heart of the city. Thousands gathered for that Bollywood style concert.
The Mayor, Eric Adams, dressed in a traditional Indian kurtha, had to share his time between the two events.The Mayor was reminded about his promise to make Diwali a school holiday from the large crowds and by organizers at both events. He responded with an embarrassing broad smile.The Mayor was also reminded of the Diwali holiday at the India Day parade and at other events in Queens. The Mayor hosts Diwali celebration at his official residence on October 25. New York Governor Kathy Hochul graced the Times Square event. She is seeking re-election in November and has appealed for Indian support.
Both events commenced with prayers and lamp lighting ceremonies. Both were well organized and patrons, excepting non-Indians, were decked out in traditional Indian attire. Many Indo Caribbeans and other Indians own businesses on Liberty Ave. Storefronts were appropriately festooned with artificial floral garlands. Diwali related songs also emanated from several stores.
Dr Dhanpaul said the Queens celebration was quite impressive. It lasted six hours. The one on Times Square that featured Bollywood artistes and a cultural variety concert ran for over four hours. Gifts were distributed to the huge crowd. Both were featured live on social media. The Times concert was carried live several Indian TV stations. Guyanese and other Indo Caribbeans patronized the Times Square celebration. In Richmond Hill, there were Ram Leela skit, dances, speeches, and devotional singing in tribute to Goddess Lakshmi. There were talented singers and dancers. Artistes were dressed in traditional Indian costumes. Sweets and beverage were distributed to the crowd. Food and drinks was also sold to the crowd.
Diwali at Times Square has been taking place since 2013 but was skipped in 2020 and 2021. Last year, it was virtual because of the pandemic, but this year, the celebrations were back and bigger than ever. Diwali in Richmond Hill began in the early 1990s. It was held near Lefferts Blvd for the first time last year and virtually in 2020.
The Empire State Building will be appropriately lit up for the five days of Diwali. Mandirs have planned concerts for this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evening to observe the occasion. (Pix courtesy of Dhanpaul Narine).