Hindus are asking University of Georgia Athens (UGA) to declare Diwali, most popular Hindu holy day, as a university-wide holiday.
Distinguished Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada today, said that UGA policy clearly stated “As a public entity, the University cannot be in a position of supporting, or appearing to support, one religion or spiritual practice over another”. So, if UGA had declared other religious holidays, why not Diwali, as considerable number of UGA students and employees were Hindus, Zed asked.
Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, stated that they supported UGA students’ reported petition for greater flexibility in observing religious holidays. Holidays of all major religions should be honored and no one should be penalized for practicing their religion, Zed added
Rajan Zed indicated that UGA should accommodate the religious needs of Hindu students and employees and show respect to their faith by not conducting regular business and scheduling classes on Diwali. We did not want our students to be penalized or put at an unnecessary disadvantage for missing tests/examinations/papers, assignments, class work, etc., by taking a day-off to observe Diwali.
The “4.06-2 Religious Holidays Attendance Policy” of UGA “asks faculty members for understanding” in missed classes, mentioning specifically some Christian, Islamic and Jewish holidays, without any specific mention to Diwali or other Hindu holidays, Zed points out.
Rajan Zed urged UGA President Jere W. Morehead to seriously look into declaring Diwali as a UGA holiday. Zed noted that awareness about other religions thus created by such holidays like Diwali would make UGA students well-nurtured, well-balanced, and enlightened citizens of tomorrow.
Zed further says that Hinduism is rich in festivals and religious festivals are very dear and sacred to Hindus. Diwali, the festival of lights, aims at dispelling the darkness and lighting up the lives and symbolizes the victory of good over evil. Besides Hindus, Sikhs and Jains and some Buddhists also celebrate Diwali, which falls on November 11 in 2015.
UGA, founded in 1785 and which claims to be the “birthplace of the American system of public higher education” and ranks among the top public universities in the nation, offers doctoral degrees in 96 areas and baccalaureate degrees in over 140 fields to about 35,000 students. Georgia’s oldest and home of the Peabody Awards, UGA has about 4.7 million volumes in its libraries and its annual budget is $1.48 billion.
Hinduism is oldest and third largest religion of the world with about one billion adherents and moksh (liberation) is its ultimate goal. There are about three million Hindus in USA.