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Diwali in the U.S.

13 Nov

Happy Diwali from the Indian American Heritage Project! Diwali is an auspicious and vibrant holiday for Indian Americans, marking the New Year and reminding us of the philosophical triumph of light over darkness. Here is a selection of images commemorating Diwali in the US. Some will be featured in our upcoming exhibition, Beyond Bollywood: Indian Americans Shape the Nation.

— Masum Momaya
Curator

Indian Americans – especially those of Buddhist, Jain, Hindu and Sikh faith – have been celebrating diwali, the festival of lights, since the first communities settled here in the late 1800s. Photograph by Roup Hardowar.

The spiritual underpinnings of Diwali – which honor the triumph of light over darkness – were introduced to American audiences in 1893. That year, three men from the Indian subcontinent – Virchand Gandhi (a Jain), Anagarika Dharmapala (a Buddhist) and Swami Vivekananda (a Hindu) – introduced their respective philosophies at the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago.

The US’ first gurudwara, built in Stockton, California in 1912, has served as a gathering place to celebrate many Indian holidays, including diwali, for 100 years. Photograph courtesy of Amelia Singh Neterwala.

Diwali commemorates the New Year for Indian Americans. Here, members of the Hindu Temple of Maple Grove, Minnesota mark the occasion in 2010 with a puja, or ritual offering to deities. Photograph by Baskar Gopalan.

In Jainism, the flame of the diya, or lamp, marks the liberation of the human soul after it has accounted for all its karma, or the consequences of thoughts and actions. Photograph courtesy of the Jain Center of Northern California.

In Buddhism, lighting the candle honors the path of the Buddha in attaining enlightenment. Here, Indian American Buddhists in Fremont, California, honor the Buddha in the presence of monks and nuns of the sangha, or congregation. Photograph by Brenda Walsh.

Indian Americans – especially those of Buddhist, Jain, Hindu and Sikh faith – have been celebrating diwali, the festival of lights, since the first communities settled here in the late 1800s. Photograph by Roup Hardowar.

Indian Americans – especially those of Buddhist, Jain, Hindu and Sikh faith – have been celebrating diwali, the festival of lights, since the first communities settled here in the late 1800s. Photograph by Roup Hardowar.

During Diwali, the homes of Indian Americans are adorned to welcome the New Year with rangoli of flowers, rice and diyas, or small lamps. Photograph by Jean-Etienne Minh-Duy Poirrier.

 

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