Idea of a school holiday on Hindu festival of Diwali, which falls next Monday, seems to be gathering steam in various parts of the country.
Over 79 public school districts in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, Virginia, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maryland and Texas are reportedly closed for students on October 24, the day this year of Diwali, the most popular festival of Hindus.
Distinguished Hindu statesman Rajan Zed says that the Hindu community is delighted by noticing the acceptance of Diwali by the broader community, but would like to see more schools declaring Diwali holiday in the future, especially in the areas with substantial Hindu population.
Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, in a statement in Nevada today, emphasized that it was simply not fair with Hindu pupils as they had to be at school on their most prominent festival, while schools were closed around other religious days.
Rajan Zed indicated that the community would at least like to visualize Diwali holiday for students in: New York City; most of New Jersey; more Pennsylvania school districts; most of Long Island area of New York; various parts of California including Silicon Valley, Stockton, Fresno areas and some districts in Southern California; most of the northern-central Virginia; Houston-Dallas-Austin areas and Collin-Fort Bend counties of Texas; much of the Maryland; Seattle area of Washington; Hartford and Fairfield counties of Connecticut; Middlesex-Norfolk-Worcester counties and Boston in Massachusetts; Atlanta and Fulton county in Georgia; Raleigh in North Carolina; Detroit area in Michigan; Columbus area in Ohio; parts of Orange county in Florida; US Virgin Islands; etc.
Zed noted that since it was vital for Hindu families to celebrate Diwali day together at home with their children; closing schools on Diwali would ensure that and would also display how respectful and accommodating respective school districts were to their faith.
Rajan Zed further said that holiday on Diwali in these districts would be a step in the positive direction in view of the reported presence of a considerable number of Hindu students; as it was important to meet the religious and spiritual needs of Hindu pupils. He urged private-independent-parochial-charter schools in these areas to also earnestly look into Diwali holiday.
If schools had declared holidays around other religious days, why not Diwali, Zed asked. Holidays of all major religions should be honored and no one should be penalized for practicing their faith, Zed added.
Rajan Zed urged boards and superintendents of these school districts to seriously look into declaring Diwali as an official holiday; thus recognizing the intersection of spirituality and education. Zed stated that awareness about ‘other’ religions thus created by such holidays like Diwali would make their students well-nurtured, well-balanced, and enlightened citizens of tomorrow.
Zed points out that Hinduism is rich in festivals and religious festivals are very dear and sacred to Hindus. Diwali, the festival of lights, aims at dispelling the darkness and lighting up the lives and symbolizes the victory of good over evil.
Hinduism is the oldest and third largest religion of the world with about 1.2 billion adherents and moksh (liberation) is its ultimate goal. There are about three million Hindus in the USA.