Written by Shagun Khare
Every year in early November, twinkling lights adorn the rooftops of a home in every neighborhood or so. Rangoli is hand-drawn onto each home’s doorstep to display a spiral of vibrant colors and geometric designs, representative of a religion that is deeply ingrained into the lifestyles of many students at Gunn. These are the first signs of Diwali, or the Festival of Lights, a traditional Hindu holiday celebrated to honor the triumph of good over evil.
According to junior Rashmi Sharma, she and her family get ready for Diwali by decorating their house with flowers, lights and diyas, or earthen lamps. In the morning, they go to the temple to offer prayers, and at night do another pooja, or prayer, at home as a family. “For me, it is a time to get together with family and celebrate traditions that have been going on for many years,” she said. “It gives us a sense of unity when we do all these traditions together.”
Each year, Sharma and her family prepare dinner together during the day, as well. Then, at night they offer it to the deities during their pooja, and come together for a grand dinner afterward.
According to Sharma, the holiday allows her and her family to embrace their religion and familial bonds. “My sister has been away for college, and is unable to spend much time with us, so having the whole family together at once is a nice way, not only to celebrate, but also to spend time together.”
However, while Sharma enjoys celebrating in the United States, she still wishes that the celebrations here could be as exciting as they are in other parts of the world. “In India, the holiday is a lot more public, and it is almost like a city-wide party, with all the neighbors lighting sparklers and lining the streets,” she said. “I think people here should celebrate the holiday more openly, instead of just having small get togethers.”
Nonetheless, the feeling of togetherness that Sharma feels at home is still deeply cherished. “To be able to celebrate with family and friends, while maintaining my culture and religion is something that I very grateful for, and I am glad that I am able to experience something of that nature,” she said.