By Ashley Kooblall
New York City’s first large-scale Diwali celebration was held at the intersection of Liberty Avenue and Lefferts Blvd, Richmond Hill, Queens, Saturday, October 23rd – an event that shut down “Little Guyana” for the first time in the history of cultural festivities.
“It’s been a dark and isolating year in more ways than one, so it was really important for people to support the second annual lighting of Liberty Avenue,” said Lakshmee Singh, host of Let’s Talk with Lakshmee TV and Radio Show. “It’s really a personal time of year for me and it couldn’t have been more secure without our day-to-day heroes – Captain Jerome Bacchi, Detectives Seth Jaffe, Brenda Reddick, and Joseph Iaboni.
Hundreds flocked and funneled their way through “Little Guyana,” not only fascinated by a multitude of performances, detail to tradition and holiday spirit, but more importantly – eager to celebrate together.
Prayer chanting, devotional singing and dance performances were among the many components of the Diwali program that ignited the air, though, many anticipated witnessing the arrival of the eight divinely dressed girls who appeared as Ashta Lakshmi’s, or the eight forms of Mother Lakshmi – the goddess of prosperity worshipped during the Diwali festival.
Reanna Arjune, Christina Chinatomby, Amisha Rachel Khilawan, Ria Naipaul, Priya Paray, Rani Persaud, Darshanie Peter, and Lailah Sundari Ramjattan notably charmed the crowd to a silence, as audience members held a protective gaze over each one clad in majestic garments, scintillating jewels, and symbolic attributes held indicative of the eight types of wealth.
Amazingly, the four “Happy Diwali” signs installed by the city flickered simultaneous with the goddesses’ perfectly timed entrance as greetings twinkled over different points of Liberty Avenue.
Rani Persaud, one of the Ashta Lakshmi’s who noticed the phenomenon, felt exactly like her representation’s namesake at the sight – Dhanya or blessed.
Dhanya Lakshmi symbolizes the inner harvest, that with patience and persistence, we too can obtain that abundance of inner joy, the nine-year-old explained. “I feel so blessed to be here and represent her,” she said excitedly.
Long-time coordinators of the annual Diwali Motorcade and Cultural Show, Lakshmee Singh and the Divya Jyoti Association have dedicated countless of years to keeping tradition alive while showcasing the community’s finest talent. Though, last year organizers made the tough decision to cancel the parade because of COVID-19, they were thrilled to find out restrictions were cautiously lifted this year to present a street fair/concert for all to enjoy.
Dave Nandkumar, an annual attendee, noted the heightened sense of normalcy the event sparked and praised the evolution of the community’s Diwali celebrations. “I am so proud that we were able to come together this year and light up Liberty Avenue like this,” the local artist and educator beamed.
As “Little Guyana” impressively gleamed from each corner, Acharya Arun Gossai, spiritual leader of Bhuvaneshwar Mandir, propelled many to reflect on the meaning of Diwali and light as a moving source of hope and healing.
“Diwali allows us to recognize that the light we share with the world in the form of our unique talents and god-like actions is not only natural and our true nature, but a reminder that better times are ahead,” Acharya Arun Gossai said, revealing that hope was indeed evident tonight.