Diwali Traditions

Diwali is a festival of lights celebrated around the world by the South Asian diaspora. It is a religious holiday for Hindu, Jain, Sikh, and Buddhist people, and Diwali festivities can include anyone who wants to join in. This year I asked my maternal grandparents what they did to celebrate Diwali in Kolkata, which is a large city in the eastern part of India.

According to my grandmother, Diwali celebrates the triumph of good over evil. There are a lot of different legends about the holiday, but in all of the stories, Diwali symbolizes perseverance which leads to victory. For example, one myth surrounding Diwali comes from the epic The Ramayana, in which King Rama, his wife Sita, and his brother Lakshmana return to their kingdom after fourteen years of exile.

In India there are lots of fireworks and beautiful decorations during Diwali. My grandfather’s family had some extravagant traditions.  My grandfather and his brother made fireworks at home, combining different chemicals to make different colors. They also spent weeks making homemade Chinese-style paper lanterns, which was a unique idea that attracted lots of attention. My grandfather said that hundreds of people would come to see the family’s decorations. They would light diyas, clay lamps filled with oil, all around their house to burn all night. My grandparents found a photo of my great-great-grandmother from around 60 years ago making diyas by hand.

My grandmother was very happy when Barack Obama celebrated Diwali at the White House, and she really liked his words, “You celebrate life’s blessings — the triumph of knowledge over ignorance and good over evil. But Diwali is also a time for prayer and contemplation, to reflect on our obligations to help our fellow human beings, particularly the less fortunate.”

Happy Diwali!

From Parent Square Diversity & Inclusion Post

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