NEW YORK (CBSNewYork)Diwali, the festival of lights, kicks off Thursday, with celebrations taking place across India and here in our area.

While this year’s festivities will be different because of the coronavirus pandemic, many are finding a way to make it special.

(credit: CBS2)

As CBS2’s Kiran Dhillon reports, more than a billion people around the world will celebrate Diwali this week. Also known as the Festival of Lights, the five day auspicious event is commemorated by Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists and Muslims. While it has different meanings for the various groups, there several common themes.

“The significance of Diwali is good over evil, light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance,” said Diwali at Times Square founder Neeta Bhasin.

Here at home, thousands of people usually gather in Times Square to mark the occasion.

More: Baar Baar’s Shares Their Suji Halwa Cake With Saffron Kulfi Ice Cream For Diwali

This year, the coronavirus has changed that – three days worth of events and entertainment are heading online.

“We have performers from India, we have renowned singers. And we have the one of the top pianists from India,” Bhasin said.

For many, Diwali is one of the most joyful times of the year. Revelers light fireworks and fill their homes with oil lamps and candles to signify the triumph of light over darkness. They also decorate their homes, hand out sweets, exchange gifts, spend time with loved ones and visit their places of worship.

A Sikh temple in Richmond Hill usually welcomes hundreds of people during the festivities. This year- the number of people allowed inside will be limited. Prayer services will also be available online.

(credit: CBS2)

“This year will be totally different, especially making sure everyone wears a mask. If they don’t, they can’t come into the gurdwara,” said Jatinder Boparai, president of the Sikh Cultural Society Richmond Hill.

Diwali, like many Indian holidays, is centered around community. But this year, organizers are encouraging us all to partake in intimate family gatherings instead.

The Bhakti Center, a Hindu temple in lower Manhattan, usually hosts a large Diwali event which will now be virtual. Still, organizers say it’s more important than ever to celebrate right now.

“With the ongoing situations around the globe, we need the light to fight the darkness on the outside and within,” said Karuna Gauranga of the Bhakti Center.

Diwali concludes on November 16.


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