As daylight shortens, the Marine Park Alliance (MPA) lit up the park on Saturday evening as the 2nd Annual Festival of Lights began with a ceremonial celebration of Diwali, outside the Carmine Carro Community Center, 3000 Fillmore Avenue.
The MPA’s Festival of Lights celebrates the vast array of traditions of Marine Park residents and focuses on the universal importance of light in customs across cultures in the year’s final months. Upcoming celebrations include Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Christmas tree lighting and a winter solstice telescope stargazing.
Organized by the MPA, along with the assistance of Assemblywoman Jaime Williams and Pandit Ravi Doobay of the Hindu temple of Maha Lakshmi Mandir, residents of Marine Park learned about Diwali, along with other Hindu customs and traditions.
“It’s actually showcasing the different cultures that there are,” Assemblywoman Williams said. “Bringing this tradition here is showing people a different part of a culture that is celebrated throughout the world.”
Diwali is celebrated during the Hindu holy month of Kartika (between mid-October and mid-November). Its festivities last for five days and are celebrated not only by Hindus but also by Jains and Sikhs. The holiday is associated with Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of prosperity, and is observed as a holiday of light and good triumphing over evil.
Pandit Doobay offered the opening prayer and explained Diwali’s significance in starting the ceremony. Navishti Doobay and Leena Narine led musical performances during the ceremony. Navishti sang the Ashta Lakshmi Stotram and afterward clarified that it is a compilation of the deity Lakshmi’s eight avatars, as she rules over eight different types of wealth: spirituality, material wealth, agriculture, royalty, knowledge, courage, progeny and victory. “Om Jai Lakshmi Mata,” a Lakshmi bhajan, a devotional song with a religious theme, was sung by Narine.
After the performances, MPA’s board member Stephanie Samaroo-Martinez and her daughter, Christina, gave malas, a loop of prayer beads, to honor the community elders. Afterward, Pandit Doobay explained the fashion of Indian culture, noting the different outfits such as Kurta, Kurti and Langa.
“The importance is that our collective efforts can do far greater things than when we are apart from each other,” said Pandit Doobay. “Light, when put together in far greater intensity, can be seen farther than when it is far apart from each other. When we work together, that is embodiment of light. We are following something that is good and uplifting for society and in, in this age, we need that in our communities.”