Diwali, or Deepavali, is known as the “Festival of Lights” and is the Indian celebration of good over evil, hope over hopelessness and light over darkness.
Traditionally, Diwali signifies the return of the Hindu Gods -- Lord Rama, his brother Lord Lakshmana and his wife Goddess Sita Devi -- to their homelands after 14 years of exile and defeating the demon king Ravana. Lord Rama is considered to be an incarnation of Lord Vishnu and an embodiment of righteousness, and his wife Goddess Sita is considered the incarnation of Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth and prosperity. Upon their return, the residents of Ayodhya were overjoyed and lit lamps in their honor. Generations continue to celebrate this victory with a festival of lights.
Did you know…
- Generally, Diwali, is celebrated over five days with each day holding a special significance.
- To celebrate the first day (dhanteras), many will worship by cleaning their home and making sweet and savory Indian treats or creating rangolis or kolam (colored patterns on the floor using flowers, powder, rice or sand).
- Day two, referred to as small Diwali, is celebrated by decorating one’s home and displaying clay lamps.
- On day three (Diwali), people will dress in new clothes and visit the temple to worship, light diyas around the house, keep their lights on and celebrate with food and sweets with their family and friends.
- Day four is the first day of a new year for many regions and people celebrate with exchanging gifts and best wishes.
- Diwali ends with the celebration on day five, known as sibling’s day. This day, people honor their bonds with their brothers and sisters with a meal together.
Many of our Valley Children’s team have fond memories of great food, dancing, laughing and rejoicing with families and members of our community. We asked some of our Valley Children’s team members to share their Diwali/Deepavali memories:
“Our annual family tradition on Deepavali day involves setting aside new Indian attire, doing a prayer and having a get-together with our friends and family,” shared Dr. Kavitha Arulmozhi, a first-year pediatric resident. “Our family and friends all get dressed up, light the house with diyas, light fireworks and feast on traditional South Indian food and my mom’s infamous badam halwa (an almond based sweet), a tradition I look forward to annually.”
Dr. Arulmozhi celebrates Diwali with her family
Dr. Shefali Patel, also a first-year pediatric resident, shared her own Diwali experience:
“Growing up in Las Vegas, I was lucky for my family to be part of an Indian culture committee known as Friends of India, Las Vegas that would host celebrations such as Diwali,” shared Dr. Patel. “We would dress up in some of our newest, fanciest Indian clothes for this one special day. Every November, the committee would host a cultural program at our local convention center which would consist of kids, teens and adults creating choreographed dances and receiving trophies for months of dedication and effort.”
Dr. Patel shared that she participated in dancing from the age of four up until high school. She then graduated and helped choreograph dances for children. She explained that after the dancing celebrations, the evening would transition into “glorious catered Indian food and even more dancing, live singers, skits and mingling up until 2 or 3 in the morning.”
Dr. Patel shared more of what makes her Diwali memories so special: “The best part about this Diwali event was that it was open to everyone, and sometimes people from different backgrounds, our local governors and politicians and invited friends would come join our celebration and learn about our culture. It’s nice when others who don’t look like you, might not speak the same language or might not eat the same things as you can embrace what’s so important to your identity and find more similarities than differences amongst one another.”
Since she now calls the Central Valley her home, Dr. Patel is excited to start new Diwali traditions of lighting diyas, cooking her own food and teaching others about this festivity.
“In times like [COVID], community gatherings are something I realize I have taken for granted. But I remain hopeful for a better tomorrow, as that is what Diwali signifies, and am grateful that the Valley Children’s community has welcomed me with such open arms,” said Dr. Patel. “Happy Diwali!”
While Diwali is celebrated differently in the different regions of India, it remains a holiday that warms our hearts and serves as a constant reminder that good always prevails.
So this November 4, we wish you all a Happy Diwali!