The Universal Society of Hinduism is asking for a school holiday for a major festival: Diwali.
The group said that all private and public schools in Alabama should recognize the autumn holiday because they have a significant number of Hindus.
Diwali, often called the festival of lights, is the celebration of new beginnings and the triumph of good over evil and light over darkness.
Rajan Zed, president of the Universal Society of Hinduism, said that the unfairness of not having a Hindu holiday recognized does not send a good signal to the impressionable minds of schoolchildren who will be the leaders of tomorrow.
“Holidays of all major religions should be honored, and no one should be penalized for practicing their religion,” Zed said. “Since it is important for Hindu families to celebrate Diwali Day together at home with their children, we do not want our children to have to take absences on this day. Closing schools on Diwali would ensure that, and it would be a step in the right direction.”
Zed said that recognizing the holiday would help Alabamians become more receptive to all religions.
“The awareness about other religions by holidays like Diwali would make the Alabama people well-nurtured, well-balanced and educated towards other religions.”
Rudhra Mathiarasan, a graduate international relations student from Mumbai, India, and vice president of the Indian Student Association, said, “The holiday could be a good opportunity for us to share our Indian culture with others. It can be a good example of cultural diversity.”
“However, for the students who are away from their home, there is not a lot they can do in the day, as presence of family is equally important for the festival.”
Tejpal Reddy Sama, a graduate computer science student from Hyderabad, India, and the president of ISA, said he supports the idea of recognizing the Hindu holiday.
“I think it is a really good idea. This is the biggest festival we have, and a (school) holiday on that day would be the biggest gift we could get.
“That is the time when we miss our families the most. Even if we have an event that day, a lot of them cannot get involved since we have a workday. So, if it was a holiday, we could celebrate it in a better way. I strongly believe that we should have a holiday.”