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Chinmaya Mission Boston’s Colorful Annual Diwali Banquet

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Chinmaya Mission Boston’s Colorful Annual Diwali Banquet

Chinmaya Mission Boston's 2021 Diwali Banquet, held for the first time at its state-of-the-art facility in Andover, MA, was another in a line of firsts for the organization. Building on the momentum of last year's virtual gala, the organization opted to host this year's event in a hybrid format, offering guests the option of attending in person or participating via livestream.

The organizers pulled out all the stops to tastefully decorate the center in a manner befitting the joyous Diwali Banquet being held. Colorful flower garlands and lights adorned the walls of the lobby, auditorium and dining hall. Attendees young and old arrived in their festive best (with masks on, of course!), perhaps signaling a light at the end of the pandemic tunnel.

Celebrations of Diwali are synonymous with the lighting of diyas, fireworks and, needless to say, delectable treats! In keeping with those traditions, the evening started off with some time to socialize over a wide assortment of mouthwatering appetizers, perfect for a chilly fall evening! 

Once sumptuously fed, the guests were ushered into the auditorium where the cultural program began with prayers to the Almighty asking for everyone’s well-being. After the “Lamp of Love” was lit by Dr. Shashi Dwarakanath, a beautiful invocation dance on Lord Ganesha was presented by Meghana Palaniappan, an alumna of the Bala Vihar program. Next, Shreya Bajaj, a high school junior and current Bala Vihar student, spoke eloquently about the positive impact the Mission’s Bala Vihar program has had on her life as a South Asian Indian growing up in New England. She spoke of how, because of the Bala Vihar program, she feels better connected to her roots, and has learned to face the difficulties of life as a high school student with equanimity.

Swaranjali, CM Boston’s devotional music group, delighted the audience with some beautiful bhajans on Pujya Gurudev Swami Chinmayanandaji and Lord Hanuman. This segment was capped off with a mind-boggling Konnakol (South Indian Carnatic music-based vocal percussive syllables) beat-boxing performance by Shivaraj Natraj, an engineer from India now studying at the Berklee College of Music! 

Ashwani & Nidhi Singhal and Anil & Abha Singhal, philanthropists and longtime supporters of CM Boston, were the chief guests for the evening. Ashwani Singhal shared that through his support of CM Boston, he has been exposed to the teachings of the Bhagavad Geeta, from which he has taken away two important values—compassion and patience—that he applies in his professional life as an executive. Nidhi Singhal said she is inspired by the Chinmaya Mission Pledge, particularly  the phrase, “service to the country is the service of the Lord of Lords…,” and is grateful for being introduced to meditation. Anil Singhal, President and CEO of NetScout, shared his guiding philosophy in growing NetScout into a successful company: rewarding values over employee performance. His approach of following the path of long-term gain and success rather than short-term gain, as outlined in his book Lean but Not Mean, aligns beautifully with the values shared by CM Boston both in the Bala Vihar program and the Adult Satsangs. Abha Singhal shared about her work as the co-founder of The Chirag Foundation, which provides grants to humanitarian and educational projects in the US, India and other countries. Both applauded the work CM Boston does in spreading the knowledge of Vedanta as well as participating in various service projects in the local community.

One of the important reasons for the celebration of Diwali is the return of Lord Rama to Ayodhya after 14 years of exile. Deepa Srinath, a highly-regarded Bharatnatyam dance teacher in the area, and her colorfully costumed students portrayed the excitement of Bharata and the people of Ayodhya as they await Lord Rama’s entry into Ayodhya. Deepa captured Bharata’s alternating emotions of anticipation, exhilaration, humility, and joy beautifully.

The audience was then treated to a humorous and satirical play — in Sanskrit, no less! Dr. Harohalli Vijayakumar, a longtime member of CM Boston, wrote and directed the play. Sanskrit dialogues were delivered with ease and style by the actors, and thanks to the English translation displayed on the screens, the play kept the audience in splits!

The grand finale for the evening was a Bollywood music performance by Gayatri Mahesh of Connecticut and Chirag Trivedi of New Jersey. Their melodious singing not only transported the audience back to the bygone years of soulful Bollywood music, but also got them dancing to some fun and high-energy numbers!

The cold fountain fireworks that were fired up a few times during the evening, much to the surprise and delight of the audience, definitely deserve special mention.

The evening was rounded out with a delicious dinner. 

Kudos to the organizers for putting together such a safe and wonderful Diwali event!

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