Diwali as holiday in Edison schools in New Jersey, Hindus ask

Hindus want Edison Township Public Schools (ETPS) in New Jersey (USA) to add Diwali (Deepavali), the most popular Hindu holy day, to the holiday calendar.

Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada (USA) today, urging ETPS to announce Diwali as school holiday, said that it was important for Hindu families to celebrate Diwali day together at home with their children. According to reports, Asians made-up over 43% of Edison’s population and a sizeable portion of those were of India descent. This area is said to have one of the highest percentage of Indo-Americans in USA.

Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, argued that awareness about other religions thus created by such holidays would make ETPS pupils well-nurtured, well-balanced, and enlightened citizens of tomorrow. It would make ETPS look good also besides bringing cohesion and unity in the community.

According to Rajan Zed, Diwali, the festival of lights, aims at dispelling the darkness and lighting up the lives and symbolizes the victory of good over evil. Hindus worship goddess of good fortune and beauty Lakshmi, god of wisdom and auspiciousness Ganesh, and mountain Goverdhan on this day. Also on this day, coronation of Lord Ram was held, Lord Hanuman was born, Lord Vishnu returned kingdom to monkey king Bali of Kiskindha, Lord Vishnu and goddess Lakshmi married, Lord Krishan killed demon Narakasur, and ancient king Vikramaditya was crowned. On this day of forgiveness, festivities, and friendliness; families and friends get together for worship followed by a sumptuous and elaborate feast. It is also considered a harvest festival. Zed stresses that all school districts across USA should declare Diwali as school holiday.

Zed points out that South Brunswick School District and Passaic City School District, both in New Jersey, have already declared Diwali as holiday. Los Angeles Unified School District (California) lists Diwali in its “Calendar of Commemorative Dates and Observances”, while New Jersey Department of Education includes Diwali in its “List of Religious Holidays Permitting Pupil Absence From School”. US President observed Diwali at White House in 2009. An official Diwali reception has reportedly been held at the New Zealand Parliament for the last few years. Two east London (United Kingdom) boroughs (Waltham Forest and Newham) have announced Diwali as school closure day in all the community primary and secondary schools. Besides Hindus, Sikhs and Jains and some Buddhists also celebrate Diwali.

“Nothing Less Than Excellence” is the stated tradition of ETPS, which runs 17 schools. Gene I. Maeroff, Veena Iyer, and Sapana Shah are President, Vice President, and Member respectively of its Board of Education; while Dr. Richard O’Malley is ETPS Superintendent.

Edison, which was settled in 17th Century, has been ranked by U.S. News and World Report as one of “America’s 10 Best Places to Grow Up”. Notable people associated with it include: inventor Thomas Edison, actress Susan Sarandon, musician David Bryan, and baseball player Darrin Winston.

Hinduism, oldest and third largest religion of the world, has about one billion adherents and moksh (liberation) is its ultimate goal.

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