On December 3rd, Sunday, the Hindu American Foundation participated with SewaDiwali of Greater Sacramento county for a joint celebration honoring the achievements of the Hindu American community and the festival of Diwali at the newly-renovated Jain Temple of Greater Sacramento.The ceremony opened with a lamp lighting by Rocklin city official Jill Gayaldo and community leaders Sangeetha Shankar and Pandurang Itagi. A melodious traditional song was presented in Sanskrit by a local middle schooler that totally set the mood for the event.
SewaDiwali’s part of the celebration was the closing or samarop ceremony that highlighted through an excellent presentation, the amazing work that the Hindu American communities in Greater Sacramento have done for the October long food collection drive on the occasion of Diwali.
In the SewaDiwali presentation, volunteers shared about the history and significance of SewaDiwali’s food donation drive, both national level and local statistics and the gargantuan efforts/ logistics behind the mobilization of this year’s program in Sacramento. For example, this year in Sacramento alone, 39 Dharmic/Indic communities came together to donate 9500 pounds of food and multiple bags of winter clothing. Some of the food banks that received the donations were Fourth & HOPE, Yuba-Sutter food bank, HANDS of HOPE, Rancho Cordova Food Locker, Sacramento LOAVES & FISHES, Sacramento KINDNESS Campaign to name a few.
HAF through its National Program Director Easan Katir was able to participate in the food donation drive in Woodlands along with Chinmaya Mission. In this region alone, active engaged youth had collected nearly 250 pounds, amounting to half of the food collected. The presentation was followed by another stunning rendering of a classical song. Lastly the youth shared their experience of participating in the food drive and how it helped them in their character building. In HAF’s part of the celebration, its CA Regional Director, Sangeetha Shankar received the HAAAM ( Hindu American Awareness and Appreciation Month) and Diwali proclamations from Sacramento city council woman Ms. Lisa Kaplan and Rocklin city council woman Ms. Jill Gayaldo on behalf of the Sacramento and Rocklin Hindu American communities.
Also the program was graced by the honorable presence of Senator Angelique Ashby from District 8 and Christopher Clark from the Folsom-Cordova Unified School District. All the officials shared about the contributions of the Hindu American communities to the vibrant local economy, to art and culture, to science and technology and to the diversity of the local communities. The officials also highlighted the sharing of common values between the American and Indian civilizations.
Here is an Instagram post shared by Senator Ashby on her participation.
Finally the program came to a grand end with fun-filled, hands-on activities at HAF’s Diwali activity tables and dinner. Participants including the officials made rangolis or traditional colorful street art and also lighted the diyas or clay lamps. Little kids had fun with coloring Diwali themed coloring pages. The activities were a wonderful learning experience for everyone including the officials who had many questions about the significance of the holiday, of lighting of the lamps, about sacred Hindu symbols like the lotus and toran or decorated hangings. Diwali is the victory of good over evil and celebrated for different reasons across India. HAF’s Diwali toolkit is an excellent resource on the topic that was shared in the event. Everyone concluded that the values of Hinduism are universal and apply to all of humanity.
Dinner was yummy traditional Indian food and hot piping masala chai tastefully and lovingly prepared by volunteers. Mithais or sweets were distributed to everyone.
“As I wrapped up my beautiful Kerala lamp I couldn’t but help smile to myself – the diya or the flame of the lamp seems to shine brighter and bigger like as though it was conversing with me, once again reminding me of its message”, Sangeetha Shankar.
ॐ शुभं करोति कल्याणं आरोग्यं धनसंपदः ।
शत्रुबुद्धिविनाशाय दीपज्योतिनमोऽस्तु ते ॥
“Subham Karoti Kalyanam Arogyam Dhana Sampadah
Shatru Buddhi Vinashaya Deepa Jyoti Namostute
Meaning: “I fold my hands before the light that brings prosperity, auspiciousness, good health, abundance of wealth and destruction of the enemy’s intellect”. Here, Darkness symbolizes enemy’s intellect and with the arrival of light, darkness disappears. Likewise, light (God’s Grace) destroys darkness (enemy’s intellect).
दीपज्योतिः परब्रह्म दीपज्योति जनार्दनः ।
दीपो हरतु मे पापं संध्यादीप नमोऽस्तुते ॥
“Deepajyothi Parabrahma Deepajyothi Janardhana
Deepo Me Hara Tu Paapam Sandhya Deepa Namostute”
Meaning: I bow and worship my lord who is the creator of all the beings and who is in the form of light that destroys the darkness and brings light to a person’s life.