Festival of Lights ‹Hindus celebrate Diwali

    Last Saturday, some students spent their time catching up on their studies, heading out to surf or just spending a leisurely afternoon. But for others, last Saturday had special significance: It was the day of Diwali, a five-day Hindu festival celebrated by thousands of people around the globe.

    Originating in India, Diwali is the Hindu “”Festival of Lights,”” in which people from all over the world share a unique day with family and friends.

    “”This day is very special to me because it brings me close to my family, culture and rituals associated with it,”” said Amit Bhardwaj, an Earl Warren College senior. “”I get to break away from the daily routine and get together with my family.””

    As part of the celebration, families decorate their houses, backyards and rooftops with beautiful candles, giving light to every corner of the house. Some families light fireworks for a particularly spectacular presentation. Each family’s display is particularly personal and unique.

    Other decorations include multicolored Rangoli (rice flour designs), which are arranged throughout the house in the shape of small footprints, symbolic invitations which lead and welcome the gods into the home. The colorful and personal displays that each individual family create make this a truly family-oriented time.

    Rituals of Diwali include Lakshmi-Puja, a ritual to Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth. This ritual is in the evenings when tiny diyas (lanterns) made of clay are lit to drive away the shadows of evil spirits. In addition, many sing “”bhajans,”” which are songs dedicated to praising the Hindu gods. Also popular is “”naivedya,”” the symbolic act of offering traditional sweets to the gods. “”Sweets are big,”” said Divya Reddy, a Revelle College senior. “”Gulab Jammu are my favorite.””

    The Diwali holiday is enthusiastically celebrated for five continuous days and each day is significant with a number of beautiful myths, legends and rituals. These stories are particularly significant for children in helping them to understand their religion.

    “”I wish more people knew about them. They are such fascinating stories and so original,”” said Aarti Patel, a Warren senior.

    The first of the five days of Diwali celebrations is called Dhanteras, which comes from the word “”dhan,”” or wealth. This day focuses on the 16-year-old son of King Hima, who, according to his horoscope, was destined to die by snakebite on the fourth day of his marriage. However, his beautiful wife saved him by keeping him high up on glistening ornaments and gold coins so that when Yamraj (the god of death) arrived disguised as a Serpent, he was blinded by the light and couldn’t enter the prince’s chamber. This day is celebrated by keeping a light lit all through the night.

    The second day, called Choti Diwal, is about a demon king Narakasur who stole the beautiful earrings belonging to the mother goddess Aditi, and then imprisoned 16,000 daughters of the gods. Lord Krishna killed the demon and freed the imprisoned daughters, also returning the precious earrings to their rightful owner. To symbolize his victory, Lord Krishna smeared his forehead with the demon king’s blood. Upon his return, the women washed and bathed him and then massaged him with scented oil. Since then, Hindus celebrate this day by bathing before sunrise in remembrance of Krishna’s valiance.

    The third day of the festival is the most important day of Lakshmi-Puja. On this day, the sun enters its second course and passes Libra, which is symbolized as balance or scales. Hence, the design of Libra is believed to suggest that account books must be “”balanced”” and closed. The end of this day brings about the exchange of sweets once again in a huge celebration.

    The fourth day is dedicated to the home in which the Indian wife prays for her husband’s long life, and he presents her with an expensive gift in return. Huge amounts of food are prepared, and the day is centered on the home. It is believed to be the most promising day to start a new venture.

    The fifth and final day of Diwali is Bhayya-Duj. As the legend goes, Yamraj, the god of death, visited his sister Yami on this day. They talked, ate sweets and enjoyed themselves as they never had before. As he was leaving, Yamraj gave his sister a special gift as a token of his love, and in return Yami also gave him something she had made herself. Since then, this day is observed as a symbol of love between sisters and brothers.

    Diwali has always been a more social and personal, rather than religious, celebration. Families enjoy their closeness and forget about pervading problems and stresses of modern day life.

    “”Even though I’m busy with school work, I always make a point of celebrating Diwali,”” Patel said. “”It’s a time when everyone forgets what’s going on in their own busy schedules and appreciates each other’s company. We celebrate and have parties and keep up all the traditional rituals, therefore it’s something unique and special that everyone looks forward to every year.”” Happy Diwali!

    More to Discover
    Donate to The UCSD Guardian
    $200
    $500
    Contributed
    Our Goal

    Your donation will support the student journalists at University of California, San Diego. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment, keep printing our papers, and cover our annual website hosting costs.

    Donate to The UCSD Guardian
    $200
    $500
    Contributed
    Our Goal