Diwali is the festival of lights celebrated by Hindus across the globe. In ancient times, it signified the conclusion of the summer harvest in the Hindu calendar. To this day however, it signifies the triumph of light over darkness, good over evil, knowledge over ignorance, and hope over despair.
The religious significance behind Diwali is the return of Lord Ram, his wife Sita, and his brother Lakshman, from a 14-year exile after killing a multi-headed demon Ravan. To honor their return, villagers light diyas, or candles, along their path to signify the victory of good over evil. Dhanteras is the first day of the festival, where women and children decorate the entrance to their home with Rangoli, creative colorful flour or sand designs. Boys and men typically hang strings of lights and renovate buildings. This day marks the birth of goddess Lakshmi. The second day of festivities is Choti Diwali. This day signifies the death of the demon Narakasura by Lord Krishna and Goddess Kali. Across the country, Rangoli is again made and individuals bathe in fragrant oil baths and decorate their hands with henna. The third day of Diwali is the main day of festivities. On this day, people wear new clothes, or their best outfits, light diyas, and offer prayers to Lakshmi. On this night, people open their doors and windows to welcome Lakshmi into their homes. After the prayers are made, fireworks and sparklers are lit to chase away evil spirits. The fourth day of Diwali is Padwa and celebrates the love between loving married partners. The fifth and final day of Diwali is called Bhai dooj, and celebrates the relationship between brothers and sisters. Thus, these five days celebrate all relationships in life and the good in the people around us.
Today, families everywhere light candles to symbolize these victories in every moment of their lives during the past year. Thus, if you walk down the street in India, you would see little lights, called diyas, shining on rooftops, windowsills, and in doorways of temples and homes. Women in India prepare for this festival over the course of five days, ending with a dark moon. Houses are cleaned, buildings are renovated, and offices are decorated. New clothes and jewelry are bought or donated to those less fortunate. Hindu prayers are generally made to Ram and Lakshmi, the goddess of fertility and prosperity. Other Hindus pray to the goddess Kali, or the god Krishna. Prayers are concluded by the exchange of sweets and gifts between family and friends. Jains, Sikhs, and Buddhists alike also celebrate Diwali.
This year, Diwali will fall on October 30th, and Darshana, the Wellesley Hindu Students Group on campus, will hold festivities in its honor. We light diyas and place them around Alumnae Hall, to celebrate the goodness in our lives and the knowledge we are gaining from our experiences at Wellesley. We perform prayers to Ram, Lakshmi, and Ganesh. In addition, students from all religions and background share experiences from celebrating Diwali in their childhood or at home. This event is a way for students to come together be thankful for all that we have and will have in the upcoming year. Finally one of the most important aspects of Diwali is sharing food and sweets with family and friends. We offer a fully catered vegetarian Indian meal, with sweets, to our Wellesley siblings. This event is open to everyone, students, staff, and faculty, on campus. We hope that you will come celebrate the good in our lives on Sunday, October 30th!