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Indian diasporic communities have been forming in the United States since the early parts of the nineteenth century. Currently, there are 3.1 million Indian-Americans there, which makes them one of the most populated immigrant communities in the country. They brought their culture and traditions to the U.S., and this includes their celebration of the Diwali, or the Hindu festival of lights. Diwali actually falls on November 7 this year, but the said Indian-American communities celebrate the festival much earlier in October. They do have their reasons. This was reported by Quartz India, a news website covering Indian businesses.
During Diwali, Hindus gather in their temples to pay obeisance and pray to the goddess Lakshmi. After they have done their religious rituals in the temples, they would all head to melas (fairs) to buy Diwali trinkets like their diyas (oil-wick lamps), puja stuff, aarthi (prayer) books, and food. Neenah Shah, a Hindu from Long Island, New York, said that there used to be small local Indian stores in Flushing or Hicksville in New York to buy all these things. Now, there are stores like Patel Brothers, Usha Foods, and Apna Bazaar scattered in most places in the country. It has become relatively easier to buy Indian goods.
The easiness of acquiring the necessities during the festival season roughly extends to booking a priest for the puja rituals. Puja N Punjari, a Bengaluru-based company with a presence in Texas, enables people to quickly book a priest. Unfortunately, there are times when the users of Puja N Punjari are exploited, duped, and charged an excessive amount of $500 for a simple Satyanarayan puja ritual. Perhaps it is because of the fear of being duped that some people turn to YouTube tutorial videos about how to do the puja themselves. In India, during celebrations of Diwali, they used to light up firecrackers. However, due to stricter environmental laws, they ceased using them. Despite that, Indians in America still ask their local police chief to allow them to use firecrackers during their festival. Some companies in America generously allow their Hindu employees to take a leave of absence and observe the religious holiday.
Diwali in America is not only celebrated within the Indian-American community settlements. There are certain events during the festival season that are celebrated on a larger scale. Non-profit Surati held a play of Ramayana in English directed by Rimli Roy last October 20. Another non-profit organization in North Carolina called Hum Sub hosts one of the biggest Diwali celebrations in the region. There are lots of performances prepared for the festival-attendees of locals and Indian celebrities. This year, it was held on October 13, and it was attended by approximately 15,000 people including Indian singers like Sadhana Sargam and Amit Sana of Indian Idol.
The main reason why Diwali in America is celebrated about a month earlier than it is supposed to be is, according to Prakash Punj, the president of Hum Sub, November will be ‘too cold for an outdoor event and also, the theatre, which can accommodate so many people, is hard to get.’ Organizers always consider the weather and the event’s potential venues before deciding what date they will hold the festival.
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