Hindus have applauded Bernards Township School District (BTSD) in New Jersey (USA) for considering Diwali as a school holiday, calling it “a step in the right direction”.
Official summary of its Board of Education December 19 meeting says: “A request by a group of Indian American parents and students to make Diwali (the Indian New Year) a school holiday was referred to the Board’s Policy Committee for further consideration”.
Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada (USA) today, commending Bernards for Diwali holiday consideration, said that all school districts in New Jersey, one of the most ethnically and religiously diverse states, should declare Diwali as school holiday.
Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, argued that awareness about other religions thus created by such holidays like Diwali would make the Bernards and New Jersey pupils well-nurtured, well-balanced, and enlightened citizens of tomorrow. It would make District and State look good also besides bringing cohesion and unity in the community.
Rajan Zed further said that since it was important for Hindu families to celebrate Diwali day together at home with their children, we did not want our children to be deprived of any privileges at the school because of thus resulting absences on this day. Closing schools on Diwali would ensure that.
According to 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. Besides Hindus, Sikhs and Jains and some Buddhists also celebrate Diwali.
About 28,500 students, including about 20% Asians, attend Bernards schools and 11 Indian languages are spoken as principle language in their homes. BTSD, which believes “Children learn in different ways”, has been ranked by Forbes magazine as one of "America's Best School Districts for Your Housing Buck". Susan Carlsson, Susan McGowan and Priti Shah are President, Vice President, and Member respectively of its Board of Education while Valerie A. Goger and Regina Rudolph are Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent respectively.
Bernards Township in Somerset County, chartered in 1760, which calls itself "A Caring Community”, is known for "The Devil's Tree" and “Zip the Pinhead” (well known turn-of-the-century side-show performer born here). Mary Pavlini is the Mayor while Bruce McArthur is Administrator.
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 has observed Diwali at White House. 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 reportedly announced Diwali as school closure day in all the community primary and secondary schools.
Universal Society of Hinduism has already urged Edison Township Public Schools (New Jersey), Woodbridge Township School District (New Jersey), Queen Bee Schools District and Marquardt School District in Glendale Heights (Illinois), Fremont Unified School District (California), Sunnyvale School District (California), Cambridge School Committee (Massachusetts) and Burlington School Board (Vermont) in USA to add Diwali on their respective holiday calendars.
New Jersey is most densely populated and second wealthiest state in the country and Gujarati, Hindi, Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam, etc., are spoken in its various parts.
Hinduism, oldest and third largest religion of the world, has about one billion adherents and moksh (liberation) is its ultimate goal.