Color and spectacle mingled with joy and tradition, as Diwali, the most auspicious celebration was celebrated in a spectacular style at the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandirs and centers across North America.
With the inauguration of two new traditional temples in Chicago and Houston and a Haveli in Toronto, Canada, this year's Diwali was a special festival for all devotees of North America.
On November 12, the Diwali day, a Chopda pujan ceremony took place where old books of accounts were closed and the new books were blessed. At 9:30pm the sky around Chicago and Houston mandirs were lit up with an uninterrupted round of spectacular fireworks as the devotees and onlookers cheered and relished the sight that lasted a good 30 minutes.
On Saturday, November 13, the New Year festivities were immediately apparent for all visitors to the temples. The New Year Day celebrations began with the Mahapuja in the presence of the saints. Several devotees participated in this ceremony aimed at bringing peace in one's life. Saints delivered a speech on preserving the Indian culture and values in our daily life.
The Annakut preparation began around 5.00am at all the temples as various food dishes consisting of sweets, fried foods, vegetables and intricately carved fruits were methodically arranged.
Devotees had prepared different varieties of traditional food to offer to God. The Annakut at Atlanta mandir saw a huge cake replica of Delhi Akshardham intricately made by Atlanta Yuvati Mandal. Arti's were performed every hour throughout the day.
The visitors witnessed the devotion and dedication of the volunteers and were highly touched by the beautiful display of Annakut in front of God. Multicolored rangoli designs and floral decorations lent to a picturesque grand display which was marveled by everyone as part of the annual celebrations. Both young and old of various background & culture participated in the festivities meeting and rejoicing with relatives and friends in an atmosphere of happiness.
The Children's Carnival, on Saturday, complete with rides, games, gifts, magic show and food was a thoroughly fun filled event for young and old alike. During the evening festivities, there were delightful devotional songs, and spiritual discourses by saints on the significance of festivals and celebrations in our daily life. The devotees were blessed by Pujya Pramukh Swami Maharaj's audio-visual blessings from India.
Each mandir also had decorations and exhibits conveying noble messages from the Indian scriptures. The celebrations also saw an exhibition on Mystic India, a large format film soon to be released portraying India's rich culture, traditions, festivals, architecture and landscapes with the powerful message of 'Unity in Diversity'. The 'MYSTIC INDIA' film will to be released soon in 2005.
Dignitaries such as Consul General of India Arun Kumar, Leonard Scarcella - Mayor of Stafford, Texas, David Wallace - Mayor of Sugarland, Texas were among the guests that visited the festival.