Khaas Baat : A Publication for Indian Americans in Florida

Florida News

Diwali is one of the world’s oldest religious holidays. The word Diwali derives from Sanskrit and means “a row of lights.” Like many Hindu holidays, Diwali is synchronized with the lunar calendar so the actual dates vary from year to year and typically falls between October and November. This year, Diwali is on Nov. 14. Known as “Festival of Lights,” the holiday is celebrated annually by Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, and Jains throughout India and across the globe. While each faith has its own historical legends and celebratory events, the holiday represents the same symbolic victory of good over evil, knowledge over ignorance, and light over spiritual darkness.

Most Hindus begin the festival with a deep cleaning of their homes and surroundings, similar to spring cleaning. Homes will be illuminated with colorful lights, rangoli art, and other festive decorations. It is believed that cleanliness invokes the presence of Goddess Lakshmi, the Goddess of Prosperity and Wealth. Diwali is also a time for dana (charitable giving) and seva (selfless service), so as to share the blessings of Goddess Lakshmi. The festival is also a time for friends and family to gather, share meals, and take part in special rituals. People often recite scriptural stories and contemplate on their meaning and the values they wish to live by. Many people will start the new business year at Diwali and offer special prayers for a prosperous year ahead.

There are several stories about the origins of Diwali. Many Hindus recognize Diwali as a day celebrating the return of Prince Rama of Ayodhya, his wife Sita, and brother Lakshman after 14 years of exile. Prince Rama is considered to be an incarnation of Lord Vishnu and an embodiment of dharma or righteousness; and Sita is an incarnation of Lakshmi, who is the Goddess of wealth and prosperity. The residents of Ayodhya were overjoyed at the return of their rightful King and lit lamps in his honor. Other Hindus commemorate Diwali as the day Lord Krishna defeated the demon king Narakasura. Ever since, people light lamps at Diwali to remember that light triumphs over dark, knowledge prevails over ignorance and good triumphs over evil.

As one of the most widely celebrated Hindu festivals, the rituals and customs vary based on the regional traditions of India and the cultural customs popular in those areas. Generally, Diwali is celebrated over five days, each holding a special significance.

Day 1: Dhanteras On this day, many dedicate their worship to Goddess Lakshmi. People will clean the house, make rangolis or kolam (colored patterns made on the floor with flowers, powder, rice or sand), go shopping, and make sweet and savory Indian treats.

Day 2: Chhoti Diwali, Kalichaudas This day is referred to as small Diwali and people will decorate their homes with rangolis and clay lamps are displayed.

Day 3: Diwali People dress in new clothes, visit the temple to perform a puja (a worship service) for Goddess Lakshmi and Lord Ganesh, light diyas around the house, keep all the lights on, eat delicious food and sweets, and enjoy fireworks celebrations with family and friends.

Day 4: Annakut, Padwa, Govardhan Puja This is the first day of the new year for many regions and people celebrate by exchanging gifts and best wishes. Many will take time to be grateful for all they have and share with others.

Day 5: Bhai Duj, Bhai Bheej This day is dedicated as a siblings day to honor sister-brother bonds. It is common for all siblings to get together on this day and enjoy a nice meal.

While it has great significance to Hindus, Diwali is also celebrated annually by Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains. The Sikhs recognize Diwali as a celebration of the release of the Sixth Guru, Hargobind, who was one of their spiritual leaders, from captivity by the Mughal Emperor Jehangir. In his honor, lamps were lit all the way to the Golden Temple, welcoming his return. For Jains, Diwali is the day Lord Mahavira, the last of the Jain Tirthankaras (the great teachers of Jain dharma), achieved moksha or enlightenment/nirvana. Whereas Buddhists, especially newer Buddhists, commemorate Diwali as Ashok Vijayadashami, the day the great Emperor Ashoka embraced Buddhism as his faith.

Compiled from Hindu American Foundation (HAF) Diwali Toolkit 2020.

Promoting dignity, mutual respect, and pluralism. HAF is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. To learn more, visit

VFS Global to provide visa, OCI and passport services for India

As part of its expanding service network for the Government of India’s Ministry of External Affairs worldwide, VFS Global ( will exclusively manage visa, OCI, passport, renunciation of Indian citizenship, and Global Entry Programme (GEP) verification services for the Government of India, in the U.S.: Atlanta, Washington D.C., New York, San Francisco, Chicago and Houston.

VFS Global will provide the following services for Indian or U.S. citizens, and for third country nationals, from November 2020: Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) application, passport application, renunciation of Indian citizenship and Global Entry Program (GEP) verification services. Due to Covid-19 restrictions, India visa services remain suspended at present. The re-start date for visa services will be announced according to directives of the Embassy of India in USA.

The centers will be equipped with world-class facilities aimed at providing an easily accessible and a superior application experience for customers and will make the application process more convenient for travelers. These services are expected to benefit the more than four million-strong Indian diaspora community in the United States, as well as customers who apply for India visas from the U.S.. Customers can visit in for the latest information on the services offered.

VFS Global has been serving the Government of India since 2008. The United States is the 12th country in which VFS Global will provide passport, visa and consular services for the Indian Ministry of External Affairs.

At present, VFS Global manages 44 passport and visa Application centers for the Government of India in 11 countries: Australia, Belgium, France, The Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, Thailand and the United Kingdom.

Vinay Malhotra, regional group Chief Operating Officer (South Asia, Middle East and North Africa and Americas), VFS Global, said: “We are delighted to have been chosen to offer these vital passport and consular services across the United States and are committed to providing a superior experience for each and every one of our customers here, in line with our service standards globally. I must add that as a company that has its origins in Mumbai – where the first VFS Global Application Center was set up close to two decades ago – it is a matter of immense pride for us to be given the opportunity to serve our customers right across the United States.”

homeeventsbiz directorysubscribecontact uscontent newseditor's notehealth
immigrationfinanceMINDBODY/NUTRITIONmoviesfashionbooks/getawaysIIFA 2014ART
astrologyyouthmotoringplaces of worshipclassifiedsarchivesBLOGFACEBOOK
Read the Editor's Blog. By Nitish Rele Classifieds Motoring Astrology Books Fashion Movies Finance Immigration Health Editorial News Content Find us on Facebook! Art