MATTHEWS – BAPS Charlotte offered the community a glimpse into the sights, sounds and tastes of one of its most significant festivals Oct. 23 at Matthews Town Hall.
Known as the festival of lights, Diwali signifies a victory of good over evil. Over the course of five days, Hindus, Sikhs and other faiths pray for health and peace while sharing meals and celebrating with loved ones.
“The festival of lights is no longer a festival confined to the Indian subcontinent with Diwali being celebrated around the world including Matthews,” BAPS Charlotte member Bhupesh Patel said.
Area Hindus worship at the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, located at 4100 Margaret Wallace Road. The term “mandir” is what Hindus call their house of worship. It holds spiritual assemblies on Sundays for various age groups.
One congregation member said the faith helps people navigate life’s ups and downs while maintaining their spiritual stability. The mandir teaches spiritual concepts in a practical way that apply in today’s world.
BAPS Charlotte members organize health fairs and blood drives, as well as donate proceeds to its annual walkathon to charities such as The Nature Conservancy, Bright Blessings and Matthews Free Medical Clinic.
The Matthews Cultural Diversity Committee encouraged BAPS Charlotte to organize a festival at town hall.
Just outside the town council chambers, BAPS Charlotte set up classical Indian art and a representation of the annakut, which means “mountain of food.” The display featured rows of Indian sweets and vegetarian dishes.
During the event, Mayor Paul Bailey proclaimed Oct. 25 to 29 as Diwali Festival Days in Matthews.
Bailey drew parallels between the five-day festival and his faith in the Christian Episcopal Church.
“It’s the light that exists, the love that exists that we all share together in different religions because when we do that, we all become one,” Bailey said. “We really are all one.”
Natisha Rivera-Patrick chairs the Matthews Cultural Diversity Committee, which works to foster a climate of mutual respect in the community.
“Cultural diversity is important because our country, workplaces and schools increasingly consist of various cultural, racial and ethnic groups,” she said. “We can learn from one another, but first we must have a level of understanding about each other.”
She said learning about other cultures helps us understand different perspectives and dispel negative stereotypes and biases about others. It also makes our country a more interesting place to live.