Diwali: The Festival of Lights

Jamal Melancon

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Diwali, often referred to as the Festival of Lights, is an annual five-day Hindu celebration, which usually takes place during the month of October or November.

Spiritually, it celebrates light’s victory over darkness and the main festival night takes place on a new moon, in the Hindu month of Kartika.

The festival is celebrated in many different ways over the five-days. Some people perform rituals, play games imitating Gods, fast and feast, light lamps and set off fireworks, as well as exchange presents with loved ones

According to Guy Beck, religious studies professor, Diwali is similar to Christmas in Hindu culture, as both are mostly celebrated at homes.

“It differs from other Hindu festivals in that there is no parade or loud public gatherings: it is mostly domestic, yet Indian communities outside of India get together in public to celebrate,” Beck said.

Diwali celebrations in the home include inviting the Goddess of wealth and prosperity, Lakshmi, to bring blessings on the first day. As well as lining up lamps in houses to mark the way back home for the protagonist Rama in the Hindu epic Ramayana on the fourth day.

Akash Desai, public health senior and president of Indian association at Tulane university said that lighting candles at home with the diyas, which are clay pots that hold the candles in them, is the typical thing to do during Diwali.

“For me the festival is interesting, because it is the festival of lights so I think of it as also the festival of knowledge because every year you grow a little bit older and I feel like in college especially, you definitely look at the idea of knowledge in a different way, so I think looking at the things that light up my life each year is kind of how I interpret it,” Desai said.

Divya Samtani, accounting senior, said she celebrates Diwali with extended family and since the festival is dedicated to the Goddess Lakshmi, that’s who her entire family prays to.

“One tradition that our family has is buying something new, usually kitchenware. As for religious tradition, we perform a normal prayer which is pretty similar to any other prayer performed in the Hindu religion,” Samtani said.

Desai added that the Indian association of Tulane university will be hosting a Diwali celebration event on Nov. 14th at Pontchartrain Landing. The event will include cultural performances, food and dancing.

Zayn Abidin also contributed to this story.

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