The celebration of Diwali will have special significance for the Hindu community in the Springfield area this year.
Known as the “Festival of Lights,” Diwali comes just weeks after the dedication of the 8,500 square foot Greater Springfield Hindu Temple at 1001 W. Walnut St. in Chatham.
The Wednesday celebration at the temple begins at 6:30 p.m.
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The community has worshiped and celebrated in Chatham since 2008, when Hindus in the area bought the old Judson Baptist Church.
The newly built temple is dedicated to the goddess Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, fortune and prosperity. Lakshmi, who is depicted with four arms and seated in a lotus flower, is at the center of the dhanalakshmi puja, or prayer, on Diwali, said Krishna Brahmamdam, a Hindu from Springfield from Andhra Pradesh in southern India. ‘India.
How Diwali is celebrated
“Light” is at the center of Diwali, which is why many tea lights are installed in homes, although in India they extinguish “diyas”, or clay lamps with oil, Brahmamdam said. Hindus also clean their homes by welcoming Lakshmi into their presence.
â€œIt has a meaning of type come to my house,â€ said Brahmamdam.
Many Hindus will come to the temple as a religious and social gathering for Diwali. Fireworks are also being set off at the house, although in India air pollution has scuttled many Diwali activities, Brahmamdam noted.
The meaning behind Diwali
Thousands of years ago, according to Indian texts, Lord Rama was seen as the embodiment of dharma (righteous life) and an embodiment of Vishnu, the upholder of the universe. Rama was exiled by his mother-in-law who plotted to put her own son on the throne.
A powerful king, Ravana, searched for Rama’s wife, Princess Sita (an incarnation of Lakshmi) and distracted Rama and his brother so that he could kidnap the princess.
Rama and his brother enlisted the aid of the warrior Hanuman to help save the princess and their armies killed Ravana.
Rama and his princess then claimed the throne and the inhabitants of the ancient capital of Ayodhya set up “diyas” as a means of welcoming them back from exile.
The power of gold
Buying gold coins and gold jewelry, as well as new clothes, is part of Diwali, Brahmamdam said. Hindus ask Lakshmi to bless him before wearing the jewelry. Gold coins are also offered to Lakshmi on Diwali, Brahmamdam said, as are prashads, or religious offerings of food, like tirtha, a ritual milk. Hindus believe that the stone and marble statues around Chatham Temple were infused with energy and are living beings.
Don’t forget the sweets
There are lots of tempting candies around Diwali, such as laddoo, fried dough balls rolled up with seeds or nuts and spices, then dipped in a sweet syrup; burfi, a dense milk-based candy made from almonds or pistachios with cardamom and rose water and peda, a milk-based candy, like a sugar cookie.
Diwali is celebrated in all parts of India, said Brahmamdam, over several days in some places. In addition to Hindus, Jains and Sikhs also mark Diwali. There are approximately 400 Indian families in the Springfield area with approximately 250 Indian students at the University of Illinois at Springfield.
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â€œWe are expecting a large crowd at the temple,â€ said Brahmamdam. “It’s nice to have it as a home. It’s the first big celebration in the temple (besides dedication). It’s exciting.”
Visitors are welcome and masks are required. Visitors will also be asked to remove their shoes before entering the main part of the temple.
Contact Steven Spearie: 217-622-1788, [email protected], twitter.com/@StevenSpearie.