Why We Celebrate Diwali: An Exchange Visitor’s Reflection

Filed in Exchange Visitor Reflections by on November 15, 2016 0 Comments

Siddharth Venkataraman’s wife holds the diyas or lamps with his cousins.

All cultures have holidays and festivals that capture the uniqueness of the people and country in which they take place. Take a moment to research holidays particular to any given country, and list after list will present itself. Often, these celebrations mark specific religious holidays and come with particular traditions and cuisine that support the event.

Siddharth Venkataraman took some time to explain a recent celebration that took place in his home country of India, the festival of Diwali. Diwali is the Hindu festival of lights celebrated annually in autumn. The festival itself is meant to symbolically honor the return of Lord Rama after having successfully defeated the evil Ravana who had captured Lord Rama’s wife Sita and his brother Lakshmana as a punishment for Rama having cut off one of Ravana’s ears.

Before the night of Diwali, people prepare their homes and offices. On Diwali night, people dress up, light up diyas (lamps and candles) around their home, and participate in family puja (prayers). These prayers are often to Lakshmi – the goddess of fertility and prosperity. After puja, fireworks follow, as well as a family feast including mithai (sweets) and an exchange of gifts between family members and close friends.

Siddharth writes:

For my family, Diwali is a time for our whole family to get together. All our family members come to one place, usually my home. We all have to get up early in the morning around 4:00 am. Once we are up, we get oil rubbed on our hair from our mother and then we shower. After that, we get all take part in a puja. These activities take around 2 hours. Once we are done, we go out to set off some fireworks and then we go to rest.

Once evening comes, we light up our homes with the lights and the diyas prepared with oil and cotton threads. After another round of puja, we then light more fireworks and share mithai.

The food may vary from different parts of India, but where I live in New Delhi, we have cuisines from all the different parts of the country. In our house, we make various south Indian sweets and food, things like a Jangri, badurshah, and many others.


Siddharth Venkataraman and his wife light fireworks together.

As one of the major festivals of Hinduism, it signifies the spiritual victory of light over darkness, good over evil, knowledge over ignorance, and hope over despair. In the many countries where it is celebrated, millions of lights are used to decorate rooftops, doorways, windows, temples and many other buildings in the communities so the whole city is alight. In the Gregorian calendar, Diwali typically occurs between the middle of October and the middle of November.

Does your family celebrate Diwali or a holiday similar? What traditional foods and activities do you often take part in? Share your stores below.