In a suburban Hindu temple, a joyful and thoughtful look for the coming year


Faced with Twitter and Facebook and the ubiquity of mobile phones, Mayur Thaker received the news of the attack on a call to the family landline. Two armed men had killed dozens of people in a temple in the Indian state of Gujarat, the home where his parents left for America years before. Now fellow believers were planning an emergency prayer session at the BAPS of Thaker Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, a Hindu temple in Beltsville, Maryland. It was 2002. Thaker was 17 and could not understand why so many people – even the monks, the very definition of nonviolence – had been targeted. "This turned into anger shortly thereafter," he said. On Saturday, once again inside the temple, this time for a joyful celebration of Diwali and the new Hindu year, Thaker thought of that tragic past and the most recent attempted political attacks in the United States and the deadly filming of the synagogue in Pittsburgh. And he recalled what the leader of his order of Hinduism, His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj, did in that terrible moment amid the religious conflict of India. He prayed for the victims. And he prayed for the attackers.
Hindus pray to BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir. (Evelyn Hockstein / For the Washington Post) "I was shocked and inspired at the same time," said Thaker, who now works as a stock market analyst, "because such an answer comes only from someone who has no ego and really has humility inside him. "Thaker and thousands of others gathered on Saturday in their temple in Maryland for an alternately exuberant and thoughtful look for the coming year. Diwali, known as the Festival of Lights, means a celebration of good over evil and the victory of light over darkness. As Thaker sees it, it is a "time to celebrate unity in diversity, and to look within and be the change we wish to see in the world." Singing in unison, they joined an incredible show of more than a thousand homemade dishes, from lentils and cupcakes to chapatis and traditional orange and fuchsia sweets. "We believe that food is the essence of love," said Bijal Thaker, a financial analyst who proposed a dish of Indochinese tofu chili as an offering. (Her husband Mayur went with the chocolate cake.)

Temple participants take pictures outside the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir. (Evelyn Hockstein / For the Washington Post) The towering towering, climbing the cloth-covered altar steps in the front of the room, is bound to signify the value of a year of food, first given to God, then made available everyone to share, he said, as monks and families raised candles before them. "This is what it seems to me – offering a lot of love," said Bijal Thaker. Or, as said Ekansh Dave, 10, of Germantown, speaking for many of his contemporaries with pre-sugar sugar tones: "I need to eat a little" It's beautiful! "It was also the twentieth birthday party of the temple. The former suburban office building, once the home of the Arbitron radio rating company, has been transformed over the years with intricate columns and decorative decorations on the outside. In 2010, a ceiling and some offices were removed to create a large room with 22-foot ceilings. Bharat Patel, the temple coordinator who was part of the group of volunteers who helped revise the offshoots of the building, is a structural engineer at the Transit Authority of the Washington Metropolitan Area, where he has worked in subway parking across the region. With the echoes of mass shootings not far away, "a message of love, peace and non-violence, this is what we need most now," said Patel. Diwali was actually on Wednesday, but with kids at school and parents at work, a weekend event gave more people a chance to join, organizers said. Shaili Shah, 21, arrived for the first time at the temple when she was 4 years old. Rutgers dental surgery student took a bus back home to Colombia to commemorate the holy holiday with parents and friends. "This is the day I look forward to the whole year, and I'll be waiting for Diwali next year tonight," Shah said. "I love coming home." I love offering food to God. "It is a reminder of his sense of duty as a daughter and friend, he said, and as a person who does not cheat or eat meat and aspires to be" honest and respectful to everyone ". also very fun dressing in a traditional sari, he said, and pack the tasty cheese pastries for the offer. "It's really reassuring to know that this part of my culture is not going anywhere, because it has not gone anywhere in the last 15 years," added Haley Patel, 21, an aerospace engineering student at the University of Maryland. "It's a good thing to be a part of and be a part of that long time."

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