On November 14, Dr. Sudha Ramaswamy, Mercy College associate professor and chair of the Department of Special Education and Educational Leadership, organized an inaugural community Diwali celebration in her town of Mountain Lakes, New Jersey. Ramaswamy worked in collaboration with the Mountain Lakes Public Library and Mountain Lakes South Asian community members to plan the event, which drew approximately 200 people to Island Beach State Park. Attendees of the celebration included Mountain Lakes Mayor Tom Menard, Chief of Police Shawn Bennett, Borough Councilmember Lauren Barnett and Assistant Superintendent Dr. Sumit Bangia. The Mountain Lakes Public Library’s Roberts Fund sponsored the event.
During the celebration, performances were conducted by instrumental artist and veena player Smrithi Mohan and Bharatanatyam dancer Roota Almeida. Anika Bapat, a resident of Mountain Lakes, performed renditions of the Indian and American national anthems on the violin. Vendors and businesses were in attendance to take part in the cultural celebration and engage attendees in learning Indian traditions.
Diwali is known as "The Festival of Lights" and is one of the biggest national holidays in South Asia. The holiday is named from the row (avali) of clay lamps (deepa) that people traditionally light outside of their homes to symbolize the inner light that protects from spiritual darkness. The festival lasts five days and is celebrated during the Hindu month Kartika, between mid-October and mid-November.