What is Diwali?


Lighting diyas (decorative oil lamps) for Diwali Celebrations

Shreya Madan, Reporter

With Diwali coming up many people are excited to start the vibrant and fun celebrations. Diwali originated as a festival that marked the last harvest before winter. As India is an agricultural society, people seek the divine blessing of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and good fortune.

The tradition is to light diyas (oil lamps usually made from clay, with a cotton wick dipped in ghee or vegetable oils) to provide light that would guide Lakshmi to bless their homes. The celebration is also based on the day Lord Rama, his wife Sita Devi, and brother Lakshmana return to their homeland after 14 years in exile. The villagers lit a path for Rama, who had defeated the demon king Ravana with the help of Hanuman, the commander of the monkey army.

The Ramayana is the full story of Lord Rama’s victory and a major part of Hindu mythology. Diwali overall is the celebration of the triumph of good over evil, knowledge over ignorance, and light over darkness. The celebrations involve lots of decorations, prayers, and sweets.

“We celebrate by stringing up lights, having candles around the house, decorating using flowers, making sweets, having a prayer, and having a party of some sort,” described Seeya Patel (11).

Another major part of Diwali celebrations is creating Rangoli which represents the happiness, positivity and liveliness of a household, and is intended to welcome the goddess Lakshmi.

“My family celebrates Diwali in several ways. Usually, right after school my sister and I do Rangoli, a form of sand art similar to mandalas. When my mom gets home, she brings flowers, and we do a few rangolis inside with flower petals. Then my mom will cook some Indian sweets while my sister and I dress up. After eating dinner together, we head upstairs for family prayers. Afterwards, we light diyas (decorative oil lamps) and set them outside. Then, we invite a few of our neighbors over and do sparklers outside together. Afterwards, we head to a friend’s house and enjoy some of the festivities there,” shared Aanandi Parashar (10).

Diwali is also a time to gather with friends and family.

“One of my favorite parts of Diwali is spending time with my family and friends. During Diwali, we have family prayers on Facetime with all of my cousins in the US, and we all dress up in Indian clothes and pray together,” said Aanandi.

Dressing up in beautiful Indian clothes like saris, kurtas, and salwar kameez suits is also a fun part of the festivities.

“My favorite part about Diwali is dressing up and decorating the house,” Seeya mentioned.

The multitude of delicious Indian sweets make the holiday even more fun for everybody. The most common Indian sweets on Diwali are jalebi (an Indian sweet made of a coil of batter fried and dipped in syrup), Kaju Katli, Rasmalai, and Ladoos.

“My favorite sweet is Kaju Katli,” shared Seeya.

Diwali, also known as the festival of lights, is a major and important celebration in India. Everyone lights their homes with diyas and houses are filled with beautiful decorations. People buy sweets from the markets or make fresh ones at home, and the entire community comes together to pray and celebrate on this fun occasion.