Tag Archives: Hindu

Queens Hindus to celebrate Diwali


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Buddy Singh

BY ASHA MAHADEVAN

After a two-year hiatus, the annual motorcade in Richmond Hill celebrating the Hindu festival of Diwali will drive down Liberty Avenue on Saturday. More than 30 cars will be featured in this celebration of the Festival of Lights, which is traditional to West Indian and Indian communities. Each car will be decorated with flowers, lights and the rich colors associated with the festival. The three best-dressed cars will be awarded cash prizes.

While the motorcade has been an annual event for more than 15 years, the excitement is heightened this year as the event could not be organized the past two years. According to Lakshmee Singh of the Divya Jyoti Association, which organizes the event, the motorcade could not be held in 2012 because city officials were unable to spare the manpower after Hurricane Sandy. In 2013, the association’s request for a permit was denied.

The organizers had to get creative and held a “nagar” or fair where participants installed booths and sold traditional Indo-Caribbean clothes, jewelry and food, while attendees enjoyed a cultural show with dancers performing to classical songs.

motorcade 2011 (508)

“This year, for the first time, we are having both the motorcade and the nagar,” said Singh.
The festivities will begin at 3 p.m. with a “havan” or prayer to Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth, at the Arya Spiritual Center Grounds at 104-20 133rd St. The motorcade will begin from near Sybil’s Bakery at 133rd St. and Liberty Ave. at 5:30 p.m. It will be followed by a cultural program featuring classical singers and dancers.

The Natya Tilakam Dance Company is participating in both the motorcade and the cultural show, said its founder Dana Marajh. “We are performing a fusion of semi-classical tandava [a dance form] and Bollywood,” said Marajh, as she and her team strung lights and hung curtains in preparation to decorate their car.

They are hopeful about winning the motorcade competition and already have plans for the prize money. “If we win, the proceeds will go toward a clothing drive we are doing for Halloween,” said Marajh.

One of their competitors is Singh’s Roti Shop. “We are hoping to win,” said Shivani Harryginsingh, 28, the shop’s manager, adding that the celebration is a great way for the young generation born and raised in the U.S. to stay in touch with their traditions. “You cannot be a Hindu and not know what it means,” she said. “This is not something you learn in school. You have to learn on your own. It’s our heritage and culture. We need to keep the tradition going.”
The event is free and open to people from all communities.

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Queens Museum displays items collected from Jamaica Bay clean-up


| slicata@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Rohan Narine

Many who practice Hinduism in Queens go to Jamaica Bay to make offerings to their gods, floating fruit and flowers and even statues of the deities into the bay.

But the items offered are sometimes left behind, not only littering the water but also causing distress among those worshipers who practice eco-friendly offering techniques.

“We don’t want our practices to make Jamaica Bay look like the Ganges in 20 years,” said Rohan Narine, a board member at Sadhana, an eco-friendly Hindu group. “We want the community to see that we are also environmentally conscious.”

Sadhana hosts a monthly clean-up effort around Jamaica Bay in which volunteers gather the offerings that have been left behind by other worshipers. To show the public that clean-up efforts are made, some of the items collected are now on display at the Queens Museum, located in Flushing Meadow Corona Park, as part of a new exhibition named “Sacred Waters,” which started on Sept. 4.

The group pitched the idea of this exhibition to the museum in hopes of both giving non-Hindus a better understanding of the religion and making it known that devotees are not people who have no respect for the environment.

“We had about 100 people come out [to our opening ceremony on Sept. 14]. The reception was very promising,” Narine said. “We are a nature-worshiping religion and want people to understand that.”

Diorama at Queens Museum (1)

Educating Hindus of the safest environmental practices that should be taken when worshiping is also a main focus of Sadhana.

“There is a delicate balance between tradition and the environment, and both must be equally respected,” said Aminta Kilawan, a board member at Sadhana.

Along with the exhibition, which displays a “diorama” of the offerings collected, Narine is working with the National Parks Service (NPS) on a pamphlet to be displayed around the bay, the purpose of which is two-fold: to teach people the basics of the Hindu religion and to list NPS rules for clean-up.

“We want to get back to the balance that [our Hindu ancestors] once had,” Narine said.

Narine hopes for the pamphlet to be around the bay by November, and the exhibit will be displayed at the museum until Sept. 24.

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Phagwah parade celebrates spring’s arrival


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Nirmal Singh

In celebration of a fast-approaching spring, the Hindu community gathered in Richmond Hill to celebrate Holi at the annual Phagwah parade. Over 3,000 people shared in this joyous event, throwing brightly-colored liquid and powder on each other, a tradition that reminds the participants that spring is near.

Holi is celebrated during the months of March and April, and while it is primarily a Hindu festival, it is also recognized as a multi-ethnic, multi-religious celebration that unites a community.

Several Hindu texts explain the significance of Phagwa. One tells the story of Prahalad, the son of an evil king named Hiranyakashipu. The king sought to destroy his son, enlisting the help of his equally evil sister, Holika – a figure who is said to be immune to destruction by fire. The king commanded Holika to end the boy’s life by throwing him into a fire. Inhibited by Prahalad’s strong faith, Holika’s powers were diminished and she succumbed to the fire.

The parade began at 33rd Street and Liberty Avenue on Sunday, March 11 around noon. Parade-goers, floats from various temples and even elected officials marched down Liberty Avenue and ended at Smokey Oval Park, where there were musical and cultural performances.