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Diwali, a Hindu Festival of Lights for Everyone

At Rohi’s Readery in West Palm Beach, Diwali celebrations will include rotating art stations, pop-up shops with popular Indian delicacies, vibrant music and even dance lessons.

Malachi Keane | MediaLab@FAU

Oct 31, 2023

While changing leaves, spooky costumes and the biggest family dinner of the year are often what comes to mind when autumn is mentioned, it is also the season for one of India’s biggest and most important holidays of the year. 

“Diwali is the Hindu Festival of Lights and it celebrates various aspects of the concept of light,”  says Vishnu Sharma, the primary priest of the Palm Beach Hindu Mandir. “We think about light subduing darkness, light as a metaphor for good energy, as well as Atmajyoti or the light of our souls and removing darkness from an internal perspective.”

This year the festivities are coming to South Florida in the third annual celebration hosted by Rohi’s Readery and The Square in West Palm Beach on Nov. 4. The free event is open to members of the community from all ethnicities and nationalities to come and share in the power of human connection and togetherness through inclusive experiences, organizers say.

The five-day Diwali festival is considered the flagship event of Hindu culture and has been gaining momentum across the globe, including in the United States. “It’s celebrated all over the world by both Indians and non-Indians,” says Pranoo Kumar, owner of the award-winning, social justice-driven children’s bookstore that will be hosting the event. “Festivals can be found in India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Trinidad, and parts of Afghanistan.” 

With a plethora of events lined up including rotating art stations, pop-up shops with popular Indian delicacies, vibrant music, and even dance lessons, the festival strives to emulate the liveliness that takes place across Hindu cultures during Diwali. The night will also feature the lighting of the Wishing Tree as well as traditional clay lamps with tealight candles that symbolize the inner light that protects from spiritual darkness. 

To set this year apart from others, the celebration will also include a community fashion show called “Colors of the World.” Guests are encouraged to dress to impress by wearing their favorite Indian or colorful attire for the chance of winning prizes. “With the fashion show, my goal is to have people come as you are, come in your favorite outfit, and come ready to be your most authentic self,” says Kumar with an air of excitement about the upcoming event. 

A safe haven and staple of the Palm Beach community, Rohi’s Readery stands as a multifaceted space that caters to both children and adults with 15 to 20 events per month. From cooking and gardening, to dance, storytime and creative writing, Rohi’s Readery is a place where people can be seen, valued, and feel a sense of unity.  

The bookstore, named after the owner’s grandmother, advocates for equality in education and social justice, ideals that have surely been passed down to Kumar. “What I’ve felt from her and the walls of the readery is that when it comes to our babies, they are just humanity in its purest form so I will do everything in my power to make sure that I’m contributing even a little bit to them feeling a sense of belonging and safety outside of their caregiver space.” 

Autumn is a time of transition to acknowledge growth and change, tenets that are very significant within Hindu culture. “The Hindu society developed in an agrarian, agriculture based environment. So the changing of the environment was an important time for folks to be thankful for blessings,” says Sharma. A great way to exemplify these principles is by learning more about the history and meaning of this beautiful festival, and how it is celebrated in India and around the world. 

As one of the largest Diwali celebrations in South Florida, Rohi’s Readery plans to bring light to this mesmerizing holiday while spreading their own message of cultural inclusivity and community connections. “One of the beautiful things about Hinduism is that it’s such a loving and accepting religion, but it also ties so much of culture into it.” says Kumar. “The thing about Diwali is that no matter who you are or where you come from, we want it to be an opportunity for people to celebrate joy and light no matter what.”

Rohi's Readery in West Palm Beach. Diwali will be celebrated here and The Square. (Photo by Malachi Keane)

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