LIVINGSTON, NJ – Sanskriti of New Jersey recently hosted its second annual Diwali celebration in the Memorial Oval in Livingston, where volunteers helped the Department of Public Works (DPW) set up an elaborate display of ground fireworks that burst, crackled and glowed for residents of all backgrounds to enjoy.
As Sanskriti President Sonal Batra welcomed the crowd, she also acknowledged the supportive efforts of Mayor Al Anthony, Police Chief Gary Marshuetz, Police Captains John Drumm and Tom Smith, the DPW, Assistant Fire Chief Kevin Francione, volunteer members of the Livingston Fire Department and the auxiliary police for supporting the event. She also thanked the Sanskriti volunteers for all of their efforts.
Anthony, a personal fan of the new Livingston tradition of celebrating Diwali, expressed that there is a vast number of non-Indian Livingston residents who enjoy celebrating Indian holidays.
“The more we learn about Indian traditions, the more we love them,” he said.
After sundown, sparklers were distributed to guests to be lit simultaneously with the fireworks display as it danced around in the crisp air.
Batra expressed her gratitude to Livingston for encouraging Sanskriti to celebrate the Diwali Festival.
“Diwali is one of the most celebrated holidays in India,” she said. “We are very excited that Livingston Township appreciates and celebrates diversity so we can share Diwali traditions.”
Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Lights, is known as India’s largest annual holiday. The name comes from the row (avali) of clay lamps (deepa) that are lit outside Indian homes to represent inner light protecting from spiritual darkness.
Regions of India commemorate different events during the five-day holiday, which incorporates candy, fireworks and light.
In Northern India, Diwali celebrates King Rama returning to Ayodhya after defeating the Ravana by lighting rows of clay lamps; Southern India marks Diwali as the day Lord Krishna defeated the demon Narakasura; and in Western India, the holiday honors Lord Vishnu (a main god in the Hindu trinity) for sending the demon King Bali to the netherworld.
Diwali is also known as the Indian New Year and marks the end of the fiscal year for Indian businesses.
Sanskriti member Punam Bhargava said that the Livingston-based group had wanted to organize a Diwali celebration for a long time prior to hosting the inaugural event last year.
“Livingston Town Council and the Livingston Committee for Diversity and Inclusion have been very supportive,” she said. “We’re happy that we’ve begun this tradition for everyone in Livingston to enjoy.”
Fellow members Krishna and Sudhir shared that Diwali is “the biggest festival in India,” where “everyone celebrates together.”
“It’s a joyous occasion that’s especially fun for children,” they said.
Krishna recalled the Diwali celebrations of her childhood in India.
“In the old days, people made food and decorations for weeks,” she said. “Everyone gave Indian sweets to their friends and neighbors. We eat snacks and spicy food, too. People pray in the evening.”
When the light from the sparklers and fireworks faded, attendees shared the Indian sweets they had brought to the celebration.
Making the successful event even more exciting is that Sanskriti of New Jersey is celebrating its 10-year anniversary this year. Founded by a small group of people, Sanskriti of New Jersey now has thousands of members.
According its website, Sanskriti’s objectives are to retain and promote Indian culture, to positively influence Indian youth and to raise “awareness, tolerance and acceptance” for Indian culture.