Many public school districts in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania have already reportedly declared the day off for students.
Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada, said it would be a step in the positive direction, as it was important to meet the religious and spiritual needs of Hindu pupils.
Zed, who is president of Universal Society of Hinduism, indicated schools should make efforts to accommodate the religious requirements of Hindu students and show respect to their faith by not conducting regular business and scheduling classes on Diwali.
“We did not want our students to be put at an unnecessary disadvantage for missing tests, examinations, papers, assignments, class work, etc., by taking a day off to observe Diwali,” Zed said. “If schools had declared other religious holidays, why not Diwali? Holidays of all major religions should be honored, and no one should be penalized for practicing their religion.”
Zed suggested all Tennessee schools, public-private-charter-independent, to seriously look into declaring Diwali as an official holiday, thus recognizing the intersection of spirituality and education. Zed said awareness about other religions thus created by such holidays like Diwali would make Tennessee students well-nurtured, well-balanced and enlightened citizens.
Zed urged Gov. Bill Haslam, state education commissioner Candice McQueen and state Board of Education chair B. Fielding Rolston to work toward adding Diwali as an official holiday in all the state’s public schools and persuade the private-charter-independent schools to follow.
Zed said Hinduism is rich in festivals and religious festivals are 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.
Hinduism is oldest and third largest religion of the world with about 1.1 billion adherents, and moksh or liberation is its ultimate goal. There are about 3 million Hindus in U.S.