Herricks celebrates Hindu festival, diversity

The dancing performances and the music were mesmerizing, the costumes were dazzling, the food was delicious and the atmosphere appropriately ebullient at the Diwali celebration at Herricks High School last Saturday dubbed “Journey to India” and sponsored by the Indo-US Community organization and the Indian Cultural Club.

Diwali is the Hindu festival of light, celebrating the victory of light over dark, good over evil in an observance that mirrors similar traditions in other religions. It has, over the centuries, become an observance among Indians which transcends its specific religious roots to be a broader celebration of the new year which includes gift-giving.

Different types of lamps are lit to symbolize the triumph of light over darkness.

“This is a great way to energize club that connects with our mission and let them connect with the community at large,” said Jonai Singh, a principal in the Indo-US society and co-president of the Herricks PTA.

Singh estimated that between 400 and 500 people attended the event, the first joint effort between the organizations.

In the Hindu tradition, Diwali celebrates the return of Rama, ancient idol of the heroic ages, from a 14-year exile to his kingdom of Ayodhya. The gods poured flowers and garlands from heaven to show their pleasure for Rama, who is considered the ideal, son, husband and king. The observance is also tied to the emergence of the goddess Lakshmi – consort of Vishnu – who represents beauty, peace, opulence and wisdom.

A very graceful young dancer named Preya Patel performed an elaborate dance from Kothak, a northern Indian state, in the Herricks gym. Aditi Mohan performed a more subtle, and very colorful, peacock dance. And four Herricks High School students delivered a well-coordinated, athletic rendition of the “Jai Ho” dance from the Academy Award-winning “Slumdog Millionaire” film.

Between dance performances, three special guests were honored for their service to the community, including Herricks school board President Christine Turner, state Assemblywoman Michelle Schimel (D-16th A.D.) and Nassau County Police 3rd Precinct Chief Inspector Kevin Canavan.

Schimel, dressed in traditional Indian garb said, “I’m an Indian-American tonight.”

Former Herricks school board member Nalini Chugh introduced Turner, a 20-year member of the board, as a friend who was consistently sensitive to the perspectives of all residents.

“The thing that struck me about Christine is, she’s always able to remember the constituencies that are not in the board room,” she said.

Turner noted that she was a 35-year resident of Herricks and principal of a kindergarten school in Garden City with no plans to end her involvement in the Herricks board.

“It’s been more than a pleasure to serve and work with all the people in this room,” she said, acknowledging board members past and present who were there. “It’s been a privilege to serve this community and I hope to continue because I’m not leaving.”

Singh praised Canavan as someone “who puts his life on the line” to secure the community’s safety.

Students from the Herricks elementary, middle and high schools helped celebrate the event by puting on a fashion show.

Members of the community also were invited to participate in brief lessons in traditional Indian dance.

In an adjoining gym area, there was a bazaar, featuring traditional Indian saris, jewelry and henna hand tattoos.

Nanking Restaurant on Hillside Avenue in New Hyde Park, provided a diverse assortment of traditional Indian dishes for sale.

About the author

Richard Tedesco

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