Vaishali Chaudhari, Business Director of the Coppell Family YMCA, sits down as our guest writer to discuss the celebration of Diwali.
"Diwali (also: Deepawali) is one of India's biggest festivals. The word 'Deepawali' means rows of lighted lamps. It is a festival of lights and Hindus celebrate it with joy. During this festival, people light up their houses and shops with Diyas (small cup-shaped oil lamp made of baked clay). They worship the Lord Ganesha for welfare and prosperity and Goddess Lakshmi for wealth and wisdom.
Diwali symbolizes the spiritual "victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance"
This festival is celebrated in the Hindu month of Kartikamasam which falls sometime during October or November. It is celebrated to mark the return of Lord Rama after 14 years of exile and his victory over the Demon Ravana.
In many parts of India, Deepawali is celebrated for five consecutive days. Hindus regard it as a celebration of life and use the occasion to strengthen relationships. In some parts of India, it marks the beginning of a new year. People clean and decorate their house before the festival. They do colorful rangoli art works on floors. During the Diwali people wear their finest clothes, illuminate the interior and exterior of their homes with diyas and rangoli, light fireworks, and partake in family feasts, where mithai (sweets) and gifts are shared.
Deepawali is celebrated and is a public holiday in countries such as Nepal, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Malaysia, Mauritius, Fiji, Suriname, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago. It is also a school holiday in many states of the United States with a large Hindu population. President George W. Bush had the first celebration of the holiday in the White House.
The 5 days of Diwali have different names, and on each day different rituals and activities to celebrate.
Dhanteras (November 12, 2020)
The first day of Diwali consists of people cleaning their homes and buying expensive items. This is meant to represent the transition from greed to generosity and invite Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity, into their homes.
Naraka Chaturdashi / Chhoti Diwali (November 13, 2020)
On this day, people create designs called rangoli in the doorways and floors of their homes using colored powders or sand. This is also a day for purchasing festive foods and visiting friends and loved ones.
Diwali / Deepawali (November 14, 2020)
The third day is the actual Diwali when people invite the Goddess Lakshmi by performing the Lakshmi Puja. Candles and small clay lamps called diyas are lit and placed around the house, and people light fireworks all over, all of which give Diwali its name of “The Festival of Lights.” It’s the darkest night of the traditional month.
Annakut / Padwa / Govardhan Puja (November 15, 2020)
The day after Diwali is the first day of the new year, and it is a day for prayer and celebration. Most businesses are closed as communities prepare large amounts of food that are dedicated to Krishna and shared among the community. Padwa which is dedicated to the relationship between wife and husband.
Bhai Duj (November 16, 2020)
The last day is dedicated to celebrating sisters. Brothers and sisters come together and honor the bond between them. Sisters will prepare food for their brothers, and brothers will give gifts to their sisters.
My favorite memory about Diwali is making sweets together with my family and sharing them with friends and other family. I love all the decorations, new clothes, firecrackers lighting the night sky, and the love that is shared throughout Diwali. In my opinion, it is important to celebrate and recognize Diwali because the world is changing. Their is lots of diversity in our communities and we should know and respect each other's faith and culture. It brings happiness and a strong bond between people in our community."