(iskconnews.org) – New York City Mayor Eric Adams announced this week that the State Assembly and the State Senate have passed a bill making Diwali a New York City Public School holiday. The bill is expected to be signed into law by Governor Kathy Huchul.
Diwali is a five-day festival commonly observed by illuminating candles or lamps in homes and temples. Anciently, Diwali was first observed by the joyful citizens of Ayodhya to celebrate the return of King Rama, an incarnation of Lord Krishna. It also recalls when Lord Krishna performed His Damodara childhood pastime of breaking the yogurt pots and permitting Himself to be bound by Mother Yashoda. Believers reflect upon these pastimes during the auspicious month known as Karttika, which occurs in October-November of the Gregorian calendar.
Present with Mayor Adams for the announcement was Jenifer Rajkumar, a member of the New York Assembly representing the 38th District. Rajkumar made history as the first Indian-American woman elected to a New York State office. She remarked, “Today, the mayor and I are proud to stand before the whole world and say that from now on and forever, Diwali will be a school holiday in New York City.” However, in 2023 Diwali occurs on Sunday, Nov. 12th, so the addition will not affect the 2023-24 school calendar.
NYC officials say that over 200,000 New York City residents celebrate the festival of Diwali, including Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, and some Buddhists. Among them are the many ISKCON devotees living in the NYC area. “I found this news very encouraging. Diwali is not just a celebration of the triumph of good over evil, but a festival to celebrate God’s reciprocation of love with all those who serve Him,” said Yasoda-dulal Das, who attends the NYC Bhakti Center.
New York’s US Congresswoman Grace Meng said, “We have been pushing for this school holiday to happen…The time has come for our school system to acknowledge and appreciate this important observance, just as it rightly does for holidays of other cultures and ethnicities.”
Meng also introduced a bill to the US Congress calling for Diwali to become a federal holiday. If approved, her “Diwali Day Act,” could make the festival the 12th federally recognized holiday in the United States.