The Universal Society of Hinduism is asking for all 18 public school districts in Somerset County to observe the Diwali holiday – the most popular festival of the Hindu religion – by closing on Oct. 24.
Schools are already closed in Bernards, Bridgewater-Raritan, Hillsborough and Montgomery school districts, according to a press release through the Universal Society of Hinduism on Aug. 20.
While school districts in Bedminster, Bound Brook, Branchburg, Franklin, Green Brook, Manville, North Plainfield, Somerset County Vocational and Technical, Somerset Hills, Somerville, South Bound Brook, Warren, Watchung Borough, Watchung Hills remain open.
The preschool is the only school closed in the Branchburg Township School District. The other schools remain open, according to the press release.
Rajan Zed, president of the Universal Society of Hinduism, said school district awareness of Diwali and “other” religions would “make their students well-nurtured, well-balanced and enlightened citizens of tomorrow.”
Zed said that it was “simply not fair” for the Hindu pupils in the 14 school districts that remain open.
He said closing schools on Diwali would ensure Hindu families get to celebrate the day together at home with their children and would “display how respectful and accommodating the schools were to their faith.”
Zed said a holiday on Diwali in all Somerset County school districts would be a step in a positive direction.
“If schools had declared holidays around other religious days, why not Diwali,” Zed said. “Holidays of all major religions should be honored and no one should be penalized for practicing their religion.”
Zed thanked superintendents and boards of Bernards, Bridgewater-Raritan, Hillsborough, Montgomery school districts for understanding the concerns of Hindu community.
Hinduism is the oldest and third largest religion of the world with about 1.2 billion adherents and moksh (liberation) is its ultimate goal. There are about three million Hindus in the U.S., Zed said.
Diwali, the festival of lights, aims at dispelling the darkness and lighting up the lives and symbolizes the victory of good over evil, according to the press release.