Indian Americans in Connecticut campaign for Diwali school holiday

Hartford: Parents in Newington, Rocky Hill and Farmington are campaigning to bring a new holiday to their school calendars: Diwali. 

A couple of dozen towns and cities in New York and New Jersey already mark the annual Hindu celebration of Diwali with a school holiday, and there is now a drive to bring that to Connecticut, too. 

About 100 Newington families celebrate Diwali, the Festival of Lights, and could do more if their children weren’t required to attend class that day, Rajeev Desai told the Newington school board earlier this month. 

“The religious celebration begins at home in the morning followed by a visit to a Hindu temple around noon,” he said. “The entire family gets together in the afternoon for devotional singing and a grand feast. 

“The day ends with fireworks (if permitted) either at individual homes or at a temple/community center. Thus, the celebration goes on for the whole day,” said Desai, president of the local Vallabhdham Hindu temple. 

In Farmington, fifth-grader Dhanya Gopi Arora said she’d like her town’s schools to become the first in Connecticut to formally recognize the day. 

“A holiday for Diwali will be a great inspiration for students who are trying to fulfil Farmington public school’s mission of being a global citizen,” she said at Farmington’s board of education in September. 

“It will be a matter of honor and pride for me if Farmington becomes the first school in the state of Connecticut to grant this holiday,” she said. “It’s not a race, but we would definitely create history in Connecticut — and other schools would follow suit.” 

In fact, one Connecticut district – South Windsor – will have no classes Nov. 4 this year in recognition of Diwali. Resident Anjan Roy circulated an online petition starting in 2015, and others continued campaigning until last year, when the board of education approved the holiday. 

In Rocky Hill, numerous residents are working for the same outcome.  

Jersey City and Passaic in New Jersey are among the largest school systems with a formal holiday for Diwali; Hicksville, Jericho and East Williston on Long Island also observe it. This year, New York state Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar proposed legislation to declare it a holiday for New York City’s 1.1 million students. 

Rocky Hill town Councilor Pankaj Prakash supports the idea of introducing the holiday in his town’s schools, but he and Mayor Lisa Marotta are also exploring an additional option: holding a townwide heritage day to celebrate all ethnicities and religions. “We have many ethnicities, religions and nationalities. We’re a growing town with a good representation from many communities,” Prakash said. “So a Heritage Day would be good because we’d be inclusive — and that’s what we want Rocky Hill to be known for. (Source:


Image courtesy of thesatimes

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