Friday, November 05, 1999

Hindus to light up new year at biggest holiday

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Madhu Sharma of Anderson Township wants her two daughters to experience Diwali the way she remembers it in India.

        “When I was a kid, we ate sweets, played around with firecrackers and wore new clothes,” said Mrs. Sharma, who moved to Ohio in 1983. “We try to do those things for our children here so they know how the holiday is celebrated in India.”

        More than 1,500 area Hindu families will celebrate the “festival of lights,” considered the biggest Hindu holiday, on Sunday.

        As part of the celebration, the Hindu Society of Greater Cincinnati will offer a cultural program Saturdayat Liberty Junior High School, and a traditional service Sunday at the Hindu Temple of Greater Cincinnati in Union Township, Clermont County.

        The annual holiday, observed in either October or November, signifies the start of the new fiscal year for Hindus.

        But the meaning goes far beyond that.

        “It's not just about starting a new account, but about evaluating your personal life,” said B.C. Sharma, senior priest at the Hindu Temple. “It's a time of introspection to become a better human being. You evaluate your shortcomings and make personal resolutions to overcome them.”

        The holiday commemorates the return of Lord Rama to the city of Ayodhaya after an exile of 14 years. The people of Ayodhaya lit up their houses and public buildings in joy.

        For Diwali, upholding traditions is just as important as religious observance. Homes are decorated with oil lamps, candles and incense to welcome Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity. The widespread use of fireworks also is a staple of the holiday.

        “It's like New Year's for us,” said Anand Narayana, chairman of the Hindu Society. “The lights symbolize happiness and goodness, and celebrate the victory of righteousness over evil.”

        On Saturday morning, Mrs. Sharma will be busy with traditional Diwali preparations: cleaning the house, decorating her small temple, offering fruits and sweets to the gods, and cooking an all-vegetarian Indian meal. She hopes the fanfare will excite her daughters, Seema, 19, and Surbhi, 14, for the holiday as it did when she was a kid.

        “All of India joins in celebrating Diwali,” she said. “It's a different feeling than here. But I still like the tradition of getting together with family.”

        This year, about 40 of her family and friends will gather at her brother-in-law's house in Dayton, Ohio, for a night of celebration.

        They will spend the night like most Hindu families: eating, singing, dancing and socializing.

        “It's a "festival of lights' that inspires us,” said priest Sharma of Clifton. “With one flame you can light another, just as one person can enlighten another one.”

        The Saturday program is open to the public and costs $20. For more information call 791-0855 or


        The Hindu Society of Greater Cincinnati offers two weekend activities to celebrate Diwali:


        • What: Traditional Indian meal and music by Jankar Orchestra from India.

        • When: 6:30 p.m. Saturday. • Where: Liberty Junior High School, 7055 Dutchland Parkway.

        • Cost: $20.


        • What: Service followed by fireworks.

        • When: 5 p.m. Sunday. • Where: Hindu Temple, 4920 Klatte Road in Clermont County's Union Township.


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