(TRENTON) Assembly Deputy Speaker Upendra J. Chivukula sends best wishes on the occasion of Diwali, the Indian festival of lights, celebrated by an estimated one billion people worldwide. The five-day festival which started on Sunday, November 3, continues through Thursday, November 7, 2013.
Diwali is the most popular Indian festival celebrated by a majority of the state’s Indian-American population including Hindus, Jains, Sikhs and Buddhists. At more than 3.2 percent, Indian-Americans are the largest component of New Jersey’s fastest-growing Asian-American group, which accounts for an estimated nine percent of the state’s nearly nine million population.
CHIVUKULA (D-Somerset\Middlesex) issued the following statement:
“In the spirit of Diwali, the Indian festival of lights, my best wishes for the material, physical and spiritual well being of the people of New Jersey;
“Diwali is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Deepavali,’ which means a row of lights. During the festival, the faithful light their homes and businesses with diyas, which are decorate clay lamps fired by oil;
“The lighting of the lamp signifies a desire for illumination by spiritual knowledge over the darkness of ignorance. These lamps are kept lit throughout the night to invoke the blessings of Laxmi, the Hindu Goddess of spiritual and material wealth;
“The lamps of Diwali also illuminate a path to understanding and awareness of a rich heritage. For those interested in capturing the spirit of the festival, a walk down Oak Tree Road in Edison or Newark Avenue in Jersey City could be an illuminating experience;
“It is the mingling of cultures and traditions that helps us open our hearts and minds to each other and deepens our human experience. It is the cross pollination of ideas and ideology that fosters our coexistence in harmony;
“Perhaps the unity in our diversity is aptly illustrated in the Sanskrit verse below which reverberates through many Indian homes during the festival of Diwali and could apply to people of all faiths;
Sanskrit Shloka from Upanishad
? ???? ?? ?????? ?
???? ?? ??????????? ?
?????????? ????? ??? ?
? ??????? ??????? ??????? ?
Om Asato Ma Sad-Gamaya
Mrityor-ma Amritam Gamaya
Om Shaantih, Shaantih, Shaantih
Lead us from the Untruth to the Truth
Lead us from the Darkness of ignorance to the Light of spiritual knowledge
Lead us from Mortality to Immortality or the Eternal
Om, Peace, Peace, Peace
“A measure (AR-123) I sponsored honors an important tradition of a burgeoning segment of our state’s population by urging New Jersey school districts with high Indian-American populations to declare the first day of the five-day festival of Diwali a holiday. The measure provides all Indian-American children with the opportunity to celebrate this wonderful festival with their family and friends.”
Under current state law, Diwali is included in the list of religious holidays during which students are permitted to be absent from school. The statute ensures that a student’s absence on a religious holiday will be recorded as an excused absence and that the student cannot be deprived of any opportunity for any award or of the right to take an alternative test or examination.