The Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York hosted a Deepavali celebration on 21 October at the mission premises.
The event brought together members of Sri Lanka’s Hindu community and those of different faiths in the tri-state area as well as representatives from other UN missions, including the Permanent Representative of Mauritius and the Deputy Permanent Representatives of India and Nepal.
The event commenced with the traditional lighting of the lamp and included the reading of Deepavali messages of President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, Hindu religious and cultural programs and an address by the Permanent Representative.
M.R. Ravi Vaidyanant Sivachariar from the Hindu temple in Queens outlined the significance of Deepavali and conducted a Hindu religious observance. He explained that Deepavali, which translates into ‘row of lights’, honours light in order to celebrate wisdom, goodness and enlightenment.
He also explained the significance of Deepavali in worshiping the Hindu Goddess Lakshmi and also recited Hindu Shlokas about the Goddess and peace in Sanskrit with an English translation. Permanent Representative Ambassador Dr. Rohan Perera outlined that with the significant Hindu community in Sri Lanka, the festival is one that is given a special place in the country and celebrated as an important national festival. Acknowledging the festival’s significance as a celebration of light, he affirmed that in Hindu culture, as in other cultures in Sri Lanka, light is a powerful metaphor for knowledge and consciousness. As such, lighting lamps reminds one to dispel darkness from their lives and to embrace knowledge and goodness, including respecting and valuing others.
Appreciating the valuable message of compassion and respect for all which lies at the heart of Hindu culture and the celebration of Deepavali, Dr. Perera emphasised that the path towards lasting peace lies only in consistently celebrating the beauty of the diversity of our communities. As such, he called for the fostering of a culture of genuine respect for and appreciation of the plurality of Sri Lanka and the world, which allows for the celebration of our different religious, ethnic and cultural commonalities. The guests witnessed a traditional Bharatha Nattyam, performed by ‘Natya Ratna’ Calai Chandrasekaram, a leading Sri Lankan expatriate dance and yoga guru. The evening concluded with a partaking of a traditional vegetarian dinner for all guests.