What is Diwali?

For Hindus everywhere, Diwali (pronounced THE-VAH-LEE) is one of the biggest festivals of the year. The big day also known as the “Festival of Lights” is meant to celebrate the triumph of good over evil.

The tale behind the festival goes as such: Ravana the demon king wanted a very beautiful woman, Sita, to be his wife. Everyone loved Sita. She was innocent, giving, and kind. However, Sita was already married to Prince Rama, and Ravana was really mad about it.

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Image from ninapaley.com

Ravana, being a demon king, had twenty arms and heads. He was terrifying, and everyone was scared of him (naturally). Well, he kidnapped Sita one day, but Sita was a smart independent woman, so she left a trail of her jewelry to help Prince Rama find her.

Prince Rama found the trail and ended up meeting Hanuman, the monkey king, on his way. Hanuman and Prince Rama became buds, and they both continued along to find Sita together. After searching and searching, they saw her on an island (I guess they had binoculars or like Find My iPhone)! But they couldn’t get to the island, because… water.

Image from mallstuffs.com

Image from mallstuffs.com

So, they began to build a bridge. And all the animals came to help them. They crossed the bridge. Prince Rama slayed Ravana with a magic arrow (He’d probably been saving that for a save-my-lady type situation). And all the animals and all the people rejoiced!

When Prince Rama and Princess Sita came back from the island, everyone got all dressed up. They white washed their houses and decorated their yards. They lit candles and lanterns to guide the two home in style and to celebrate Rama’s triumph over Ravana: light over dark, good over evil.

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In America, Diwali is a just another day to most. Not to me. (Can you imagine if it were Christmas, and no one around you knew? If you still had to go to work. If you couldn’t be home with your family.…) Diwali is my favorite day of the year.

The Festival of Lights is about five things to me:

New Beginnings: Diwali is the mark of a New Year in Hindu culture. So on Diwali, you wake up and shower, so that you are clean and pure. And you wear something new! If you get as excited as I do about new clothes, this is a great start to a great day.

new clothes

Then you pray to Goddess Lakshmi, the goddess of good fortune. It is said that she is very into cleanliness. So Diwali is the world’s best excuse for moms to get you to clean every inch of the house.

Giving and Loving: Diwali is an excuse to give and receive gifts. (Preseeeentsss!) It’s more than gifts, though. It’s about compassion. It’s about loving everyone. It’s about equality. No discrimination. You give openly. You love openly. What could be more beautiful than that?

All of the Lights: On Diwali, you can see India from space. From space! We light up everything. Candles, lanterns, stringed lights, lamps, and fireworks! Not a single shred of darkness today. LIGHT WINS. Then, we open every door to invite Goddess Lakshmi into our homes.

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Food: Isn’t the best part of every holiday the delicious food? After the day’s puja (worship service), there is always sweet prasad (food served as a religious offering) and lots of good homemade food. Along with the day-long feasting, Diwali is all about desserts. And I am all about anything that is all about desserts.

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Dancing: Diwali is typically celebrated with lots of music and dancing. Local festival programs take place across the world featuring dancers of all ages. Anyone not attending a program is most likely attending a party. So, the dancing is inescapable!

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Happy Diwali, my friends. May this year bring you good fortune, happiness, and joy!

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