GLEN ROCK, NJ - Last year, Piscataway Township Schools have had no school on Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, and again, will have no school on that day during the next school year.
Twelve schools, including Piscataway, will reportedly stay closed for students on Nov. 7, the most popular day of the Hindu festival Diwali.
As the festival of lights, Diwali "aims to dispel the darkness and light up lives, symbolizing the victory of good over evil," according to Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, the President of the Universal Society of Hinduism in Nevada.
There will be no classes for students in Piscataway Township Schools, Chesterfield Township School District, Clifton Public Schools, Glen Rock Public Schools, Jersey City Public Schools, Millburn Township Public Schools, Monroe Township School District, Montgomery Township School District, North Brunswick Township School District, Passaic Public Schools, South Brunswick School District and West Windsor-Plainsboro Regional School District on Nov. 7. There will be no school for students in Edison Township Public Schools on Nov. 6.
Zed, who has been actively supporting inclusion of the Diwali holiday in New Jersey schools, in a statement called closing schools on Diwali “a step in the positive direction.” He urged all public school districts and private-charter-independent schools in New Jersey to close on Diwali in view of the presence of a substantial number of Hindu students in New Jersey.
Zed indicated that since it was important for Hindu families to celebrate Diwali day together at home, closing schools on Diwali would ensure that and would also display how respectful and accommodating New Jersey schools were to their faith.
"If schools had declared other religious holidays, why not Diwali?" Zed asked. "Holidays of all major religions should be honored and no one should be penalized for practicing their religion."
Zed urged Gov. Phil Murphy, New Jersey Acting Education Commissioner Dr. Lamont Repollet and New Jersey State Board of Education President Arcelio Aponte to work towards adding Diwali as an official holiday in all the state’s public schools, and persuading the private-charter-independent schools to follow.
The official List of Religious Holidays Permitting Student Absence from School, according to the New Jersey State Board of Education, contains 19 Hindu holidays, which include Chandramana Yugadi, Diwali, Dussehra, Ganesh Chaturthi, Goverdhan Puja, Guru Purnima, Hanuman Jayanti, Holi, Krishna Janmashtami, Maha Shivaratri, Makar Sankranti, Naga Panchami, Navaratri, Onam, Pongal, Raksha Bandhan, Ramnavami, Souramana Yugadi, Vasant Panchami. Onam is listed for 13 days, Ganesh Chaturthi is listed for 12, while Navaratri is listed for nine days.
Hinduism is the oldest and third largest religion of the world with about 1.1 billion adherents and moksh (liberation) is its ultimate goal. There are about three million Hindus in the United States.