Global Leader Riya Shah, an international student from India, shares how she celebrates Diwali. Riya is currently studying from home in India, and was able to celebrate Diwali with her family this year.

Diwali is just around the corner, and millions of people across the country hope that the festival of lights will dispel darkness in more ways than one. Diwali or Deepavali is the Indian festival of lights, usually lasting five days, and celebrated during the Hindu Lunisolar month Kartika (between mid-October and mid-November). One of the most popular festivals of Hinduism, Diwali symbolizes the spiritual “victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance.” The festival gets its name from the row (avalil) of clay lamps (deepa) that Indians light outside their homes to symbolize the inner light that protects from spiritual darkness. Brimming with marigolds, the flicker of lamps, and the aromas of incense, our homes are transformed into spectacles of joy. This festival always brings hope and happiness.

In the lead-up to Diwali, Indians prepare by cleaning, renovating, and decorating their homes and workplaces with rangoli, consisting of elaborate designs made of colored rice, sand or flower petals.During Diwali, people wear their finest clothes, illuminate the interior and exterior of their homes with diyas (oil-lamps or candles) and perform Laxmi puja, worship ceremonies of Goddess of prosperity and wealth. They light fireworks, and partake in family feasts, where mithai or sweets are shared.

The festival is incomplete without family, food and hours of conversation. It’s the time of the year when lights, gifts and even far-flung relatives come together to create memories that will be fondly remembered for years to come. Maybe it’s been years since you last met that distant cousin, or months till you meet your favorite niece again. As you savor each moment, share the goodness of love. 

Festivities in India are more likely to be smaller, more intimate, and digital this year. Also, situations like these make you realize what true celebration of life is- who are the people who really matter to you, how negligible you are on the face of this planet and what true joy is. The pandemic has put everything into perspective. Along with celebrations, festivals are also about nostalgia. Diwali signifies an important life lesson- the joy of sharing. Traditions of Diwali like gifting or sharing sweets and food together are always delightful. Times and circumstances may change but the bond you share with your loved ones will never fade. 

Do you have a holiday or festival from your culture that you’d like to share about? Email us at isss-programs@sjsu.edu 

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