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Diwali in Sioux Falls: ‘Like Christmas and Fourth of July rolled into one’

This year, organizers scaled down the celebrations and had it on 5 November night, a day after Diwali was celebrated in India


To Indians, reading how American aliens view Hindu occasions or viewing documentaries on such festivities can be amusing. The following is a description of Diwali in an American website where, for one, the diyas (oil lamps) have been described as the aarti, which Sirf News had to edit. Anyway, the rest follows in the subsequent paragraphs.

Bells rang as women in brightly-coloured dresses, called saris, and men in long tunics known as sherwanis filled the Hindu Temple of Siouxland to celebrate Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights.

Women helped children light small tea lights and families brought offerings of fruit, milk-based cookies and sweet rice yoghurt for the many Hindu gods.

Diwali, the largest holiday in India, is a five-day celebration that marks the battle of good over evil in Hindu mythology as the king Rama, who is a god, defeated an evil king after he took his wife Sita.

Every year, candles and oil lamps, known as diyas, are lit to help Rama and Sita on their way home.

Held in late or early November, Diwali is like Christmas and Fourth of July rolled into one, Kalyan Boinapalli, the president of the Hindu Temple of Siouxland, said. People enjoy sweet treats, loved ones receive gifts and firecrackers and sparklers are often lit.

“People go wild in India,” Boinapalli said. “It’s nothing compared to Fourth of July, it’s much bigger and crazier.”

This is the first Diwali celebration the temple has hosted since the Covid-19 pandemic started in 2020. In past years, the celebrations were normally held at a local high school with hundreds showing up, multiple people said.

“I’m going to see so many faces today that I haven’t seen in two years,” Boinapalli said.

This year, organisers had scaled down the celebrations and had it on Friday night, a day after Diwali was celebrated in India. Friday marked the new year in Hindu culture.

The holiday allows the 2,000 Hindus across Sioux Falls to come together for the celebration. Although, there were only about a hundred people at the temple.

“It’s to pull the community together,” Boinapalli said. “Everything in Hinduism we do, it always signifies anything you do it says to celebrate it with friends and family.”

During Diwali, puja, a worship ceremony, was held with 16-year-old Ashirvad Sharma singing praises to each Hindu god in Sanskrit. As Sharma went through the praises, those gathered for the celebration caught up with one another.

Throughout the puja, Sharma, a junior at Brandon Valley High School, offered gods like Ganesh, the -headed god of beginnings, and Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth who is also celebrated during Diwali, food and anointed the foreheads of all those present with red paint.

A large lantern, for aarti, was lit and Sharma passed it over the crowd.

“It removes ego,” he explained afterwards.

While 1.38 billion people in India celebrate Diwali, the small gathering at the Hindu Temple in Tea has allowed immigrants to share their culture with their children.

“Both of my kids are being brought up here so we’re growing roots here and events like this gives us a chance to give some of those roots to my kids,” Boinapalli said. “It’s a way to pass some of my culture to them.”

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