By Ashley Kooblall
BHUVANESHWAR MANDIR sent a powerful call for unity in our community after participating in the Diwali Motorcade, Saturday, October 14 – a walk they took for the very first time since the mandir’s inception in 1984.
“I’m so happy our members were empowered to march in the parade. This is what Diwali is all about — togetherness and love. There’s great strength in that,” said its spiritual leader, Acharya Arun Gossai.
Over 10,000 people attended the Diwali Motorcade this year, the largest attendance in the history of the parade. Celebrations began with a havan, or religious service, at the Arya Spiritual Center Grounds in Richmond Hill, Queens, followed by the parade and ending with a cultural show comprised of leading local talent.
Among the thousands of attendees mesmerized by the excitement and luminosity trickling about, Cuban photographer, Louis Nelson, aka Kon Boogie, fervently admitted that he was afraid to blink, fearing he would miss a moment.
Spectators stood in trance at the scintillating display of 16 floatsrolling down Liberty Avenue, each paying reverence to the gods and goddesses incarnated in youths divinely dressed.
“The dresses, the lights, the kids dressed as deities, the music, and the stories all left me in a constant state of wonder,” Nelson gushed. “I found myself putting down the camera many times just to be present and absorb the ambiance with my family. It left me full of questions that I was grateful for because it motivated me to want to get to know the culture better.”
Members of the mandir proudly held the Bhuvaneshwar banner with a sense of purpose amid an atmosphere of jubilation — a large part of an even larger picturesque beauty.
“Bhuvaneshwar Mandir continues to be visible in the movement of light by staying true to its motto: Be Simple, Be a Sample, Be an Example,” said Lakshmee Singh, host of Let’s Talk with Lakshmee and long-time coordinator of the annual Diwali Motorcade and Cultural Show. Lakshmee, whose namesake coincides with the Goddess Lakshmi – the deity worshipped during Diwali, attributes her commitment to her culture to her mother. “I grew up seeing my mother play an integral role in the Hindu community, not only in NYC but also in my country of birth, Guyana. It’s my duty to continue her legacy,” she said.
A panel of renowned judges evaluated the floats based on illumination, creativity, artisanship, beauty, music and punctuality. Panelists included: ITV Gold’s Bindu Kohli;Bacchanal Radio’s Hema Augustus; Miss Bollywood 2017, Nadia Neubert; Awesome TV’s Roxanne Seunarine; and Guyana Chunes Abee Radio, Sheena Balgobin – all of whom deemed Shri Durga Mandir worthy of the first place prize of $2,001.00.
“Celebrations like these heighten a sense of what it takes to make a community exist. I was deeply impressed seeing people work together with synergy from different parts of the world. It was evident that this was not only a labor of love but also one of diversity. I’m so proud of Lakshmee Singh and her team for organizing an event at such a grand scale,” Acharya Arun Gossaisaid.
Bhuvaneshwar Mandir plans to participate in the motorcade again next year.