Bringing light into the darkness of these pandemic days, members of Long Island's Indian community gathered Saturday for a "festival of light" that featured Indian delicacies, dancing, art and fashion.
The joyous event at the Hindu Temple and Cultural Center in Selden celebrated the holiday of Diwali, aimed at replacing the darkness in people's lives with the light of goodness, knowledge and prosperity.
People, some in traditional Indian attire, filled the temple parking lot, as did the enticing aroma of Indian food and the happy feeling of a community coming together after pandemic-forced separation.
Temple priest Barghavan Sridharan said people of all faiths can take a message from the holiday.
"We want this to be the start of good days," he said.
The temple and cultural center opened about three years ago to serve the area's growing Indian population, but this was its first Diwali festival due to COVID-19 restrictions. The temple offers daily prayer services and weekend instruction in music and song to youngsters.
All the money raised by the Selden event will help the temple, Sridharan said.
Those in attendance said the festival is a way to keep alive their Indian traditions while passing them on to another generation.
"It is a way of showing how the Indian community can teach the values from India that the children would not be familiar with," said Santosh Pisharody of South Setauket.
Strolling among the long tables filled with pans of savory food and bright, colorful clothing for sale, Shoba Menon of Rocky Point said the autumn holiday is filled with positive energy.
"It signifies typically the victory of good over evil; you know, the victory of knowledge over ignorance and light over darkness, really," Menon said.
These days, such a universally appealing message of hope is welcome, Menon said.
Diwali typically is a five-day festival that this year begins in early November. Steeped in history and meaning, it is celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs and other Indian faiths, although it marks different historical events and stories among each.
For all, though, the festival represents a victory of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, and good over evil.
"It's really all the good things we should be about," Sridharan said.