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Diwali lights up Richmond Hill

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Diwali is the Hindu festival of lights and the floats for the annual parade — the organizers prefer to call is a motorcade — down Liberty Avenue in Richmond Hill do not skrimp on illimination.
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A bonfire starts the Diwali celebration. Women traditionally dump offerings of food — coconuts, seeds and ghee (a buttery shortening) — are tossed in the flames at the end of the ceremony to secure the gods’ blessing.
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A vendor at the festival on 133rd Street looks over his selection of ritual shoes and sandals.
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Hooking up her crown, this young girl is almost late for the start of the parade.
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The Diawli holiday is a big for the kids, who gets to dress up elaborately as Hindu gods. The little ones in pink and green are Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity. The guys are Vishnu, her mythical husband.
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Nailed it! The display of gold jewelry and and accessories gets pretty intense.

Most of the storefronts along Liberty Avenue were festooned with floral garlands Saturday as Diwali celebrations filled Richmond Hill with colorful traditional costumes, multicolored lights and plenty of ethnic music, all part of the annual Hindu festival of lights.” The event features a motorcade of floats through the neighborhood known as Little Guyana.

“Every year people come out and decorate in honor of the Goddess Lakshmi,” organizer Lakshmee Singh said. “We’re looking to make Diwali a major community event, and it has been growing. We’re very excited about it.”

Prominent author, columnist and educator, Dr. Dhanpaul Narine, was the grand marshal of the motorcade that drew thousands along Liberty Avenue. Narine, president of the Shri Trimurti Bhavan Hindu Temple in Ozone Park, who has served the community for more than 40 years, said Diwali represents the triumph of good over evil, and dispelling of the darkness with light, and added that it was an honor to represent the community as grand marshal.

“I feel exuberant. It is triumphant for our community to show at this time, and in our history of our country Guyana and the world, that we need peace more than anything else,” Narine said. “So we brought together from all over the world today so that we can walk in peace and celebrate light.”

Diwali is a national holiday in countries with large Hindu populations, such as Guyana, India, Nepal and Trinidad and Tobago. During the motorcade, cars, vans, motorcycles and floats decorated with flowers and lights rolled down the avenue carrying bejeweled men, women and children, who showcased the beauty of the festival.

After the parade, the festival culminated with a cultural extravaganza at the Arya Spiritual Grounds on 133rd Street with performances by the Shelly Ramnanan Cultural Dance School, the Natraj Centre for the Performing Arts, the Sanasani Cultural Organization, the Krishna Mandir Youth Group, and the David Ali Dance Group.

Soldier Rasmark, born in Guyana who has lived in Richmond Hill for 37 years, watched the proceedings with pride. Rasmark is a concert promoter who works with the Bob Marley Foundation.

“It’s a wonderful thing to get so many people together each year at this time in peace and harmony,” he said. “Diwali is the festival of light, why? I’m told it’s like when man first met woman. Before there was only darkness and then there was light. That’s what Diwali means, and we need it now more than ever with all the problems we have in this world with the wars and the poverty. We need more light.”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.

Updated 7:54 am, October 20, 2017
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