MELVILLE, NY (TIP): Amid the COVID-19 global pandemic, the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Melville, NY focused on bringing together the Hindu community through five days of virtual Diwali celebrations. During this period, the traditions celebrated present an opportunity to reflect and introspect on one’s personal, professional, and spiritual growth. Many families would generally gather at the BAPS Mandir to celebrate this festival. However, due to all of the health and safety concerns this year, the BAPS organization provided live, interactive programs throughout the holiday season to bring the community together while suggesting activities that each family can partake in and share with others online. One such activity was the observation of New Year’s Day which occurs the day after Diwali. BAPS mandirs the world over celebrate this day by offering Annakut (meaning of “Mountains of Food”) to the sacred images within the shrines of the mandir. The 100s of food items are generally made by followers of the faith in their homes and brought to the mandir. This year, however, families were encouraged to make fresh vegetarian delicacies and offer them to the images that are kept at home, with the same spirit and to share pictures of this and other Diwali activities online.
Although no grand celebrations were held at the mandir this year, BAPS did offer limited viewings of the sacred images, during the Diwali season. Due to the auspiciousness of the holiday, many Hindus come to view and pray before the images on these days. As a part of its ongoing COVID-19 response efforts, the organization’s humanitarian arm – BAPS Charities – organized a Food Drive and requested all who come to the mandir to bring non-perishable food items to help those most affected by the pandemic.