Written by Yeashivana Mahadeo
On the overcast morning of Saturday June 6, 2015, Pandit Ram Hardowar, the Spiritual Leader of Shri Surya Narayan Mandir, along with the mandir’s devotees joined community leaders as they awaited the arrival of Senator Leroy Comrie for a press conference. The press conference was held to recognize and establish Diwali as a public school holiday, a pressing issue for the Hindu community in New York, as well as the rest of the nation.
Upon his arrival, State Senator Leroy Comrie announced that he introduced Assembly Bill A4331, and Senate Bill S5304in the State Senate to establish Diwali as an official public school holiday in the State of New York. The Senator was well informed about Diwali, and would like New York State, as well as New York City to recognize the significance of the festival and award the day off, in a similar manner that other Christian and Jewish holidays are observed. The Senator also stressed that the festival’s significance should also be added to the NYS Department of Education’s curriculum. He hopes that the bill will be passed before the current political session ends.
When Guruji was requested to speak, he welcomed everyone and described Diwali as the most beautiful festival in the world, and explained that during this festival, both the male aspect of God, Vishnu Bhagwan, and the female aspect, Mother Lakshmi are worshipped. The festival also represents the triumph of good over evil. Other speakers at the press conference included Community Liaison Mohammed Hack, Assemblyman Michael Miller, members of the Sikh community, public servants, as well as parents who all agreed and pleaded that the large and growing population of Hindus, Jains and Sikhs should be given the same opportunity as the other religious sects to celebrate and spend this day with their entire family. Auntie Dottie, a respected elder of the Shri Surya Narayan Mandir, spoke on behalf of the mothers and grandmothers of the Mandir, while Shyla and Amba Hardowar represented the youths.
Personally, as a student in the New York City school system, it is sad that as a Hindu, I am not able to stay home and worship with my family on any of our religious holidays without my school attendance being affected, while other faiths are awarded multiple days off throughout the year for their various holidays. This day should be a celebration for every Hindu child, because as they should be able to spend time at home helping their parents prepare delicious sweets, perform special pooja, and then light the diyas in the evening. Diwali is a right of every Hindu, and it is time that our nation’s legal institution reflect its importance.