Diwali, the Festival of Lights, is celebrated with enthusiasm and vigor by millions of Indian communities around the world. This festival is India’s biggest and most important day of the calendar year, with Holi (The Festival of Colors) coming in second. At its core, Diwali signifies the triumph of light over darkness. The festival name itself, Deepavali, is derived from the Sanskrit words “deepa” (light) and “avali” (row). People illuminate their homes with rows of lamps and candles to symbolize the victory of knowledge, wisdom, and goodness over ignorance, darkness, and evil.
Diwali carries religious importance for multiple Indian communities. For Hindus, it marks the return of Lord Rama after his victory over the demon king Ravana. His homecoming symbolizes the success of dharma (righteousness) over adharma (sinfulness). The worship of Goddess Lakshmi for wealth and prosperity is also central to Diwali celebrations. Jains celebrate Diwali to commemorate Lord Mahavira’s fulfillment of nirvana, while Sikhs celebrate it as Bandi Chhor Divas, marking Guru Hargobind Ji’s release from imprisonment.
The Festival of Lights is not merely a celebration but an expression of beauty, culture, unity, renewal, and shared values. Diwali brings families and communities together during meals, exchanging of gifts, prayer, and fireworks. In some regions of India, it coincides with the harvest season and is celebrated as a harvest festival, marking the end of the agricultural year and the beginning of a new one. So, for Diwali, farmers often pray for bountiful harvests and economic prosperity.
Diwali can be celebrated in a multitude of ways, as specific customs vary between religions and families. For example, Shriya Garg (‘25) “sets rows of diyas around the house and does rangoli,” a decorative art form created at the entrance of homes and temples. Rangoli designs range from simple patterns to intricate, artistic creations that depict vibrant flowers, lamps, peacocks, and religious symbols.
Likewise, Ashish Gupta (‘25) “hangs up decorative lights for good spirits and does pujas [prayers] with his family.” On the main day of Diwali, families gather for puja to seek the blessings of deities, such as Lakshmi for wealth and Ganesh for wisdom.
Another student, in their kurta (traditional Indian clothing), goes to cultural events that showcase music, dance, and art. Lastly, Shiv Sibal (‘25) lights “party sparklers and firecrackers” to signify the triumph of light over darkness during Diwali. Numerous families in Edgemont, either in public functions or in the comfort of their own homes, participate in this festival.
Typically during Diwali celebrations, people put tikas (a red semi-liquid powder) on each other’s foreheads as a symbol of devotion, piety, and respect. Mathai (sweets), namkeen (savory snacks), rice dishes, curries, and fruit platters are often part of the Diwali feast. Kaju katli, for example, is a family favorite dessert made with cardamom powder and cashew nuts. Others enjoy vegetable biryani or something spicy like paneer tikka (marinated and grilled cottage cheese in stew). Additionally, people often buy expensive jewels and luxurious clothing to welcome Hindu goddesses of prosperity on the first day of Diwali.
The beauty of Diwali is that it transcends any and all religious and cultural boundaries, as the festival can be universally celebrated. Like Christmas and Easter, many religious and ethnic groups can partake in these yearly traditions, whether by lighting rows of diyas around the house, playing Rummy and Canasta (Indian card games), bursting fireworks in the backyard, or simply spending quality time with family. During Diwali, the significance of external factors such as race, social class, religion, and gender diminish in comparison to the strength of togetherness and family. Diwali is not just a religious holiday but a celebration of community, the enduring light of knowledge, and the timeless power of unity in diversity.