2nd post

Once upon a time, North America was a stranger to Diwali. Back then, we Hindus made do with what was available- like homemade sweets or off the shelf holiday decor repurposed for Diwali, and a hurried puja since the kids had to go to school just like any other busy weekday. Real festivities with family and friends had to wait for the weekend with most such festivities being private events. Public acknowledgement or large-scale celebration was far too distant an idea to be spared a thought.

Fast forward to 2022 and it seems Diwali is finally having a “mainstream moment” in America. Diwali is an official school holiday in as many as 26 in New Jersey alone, enabling families a chance to celebrate the day meaningfully together. Corporate America has also started catering to an underserved need. Mainstream retailers like Macy’s have started stocking traditional outfits at select stores. Home Depot puts out ‘Diwali’ decor weeks before Diwali. Amazon, Walmart and other online retailers stock a host of Diwali merchandise. Most importantly in a rare display of consensus, both sides of the political aisle acknowledged and celebrated Diwali.

While these inclusionary changes reflecting the essence of dharma are very welcome, there are some serious concerns as well.

Unfortunately and increasingly, Diwali is being co-opted and rebranded as a ‘South Asian’ holiday.

At the cost of being accused of narcissism of small differences, there is a need to set the record straight, lest Diwali end up like Yoga. Co-opted and rebranded with some state mandate, Yoga is now been cut from its dharmic roots and grand traditions. Yoga is a pale shadow of what it was meant to be. Pranayama is reduced to ‘single nostril breathing’, ado mukha svanasana to ‘downward dog’, vipassana to ‘mindfulness’ and the list goes .

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