More than a billion people celebrated the holiday of Diwali this week, including a number of Panthers.
The Indian national holiday commemorates the triumph of light over darkness and marks the start of the Hindu New Year. It was observed for five days this week with rows of oil lamps, prayers and traditional dishes.
“Diwali is like a time of renewal and spirituality that celebrates when light brings an end to darkness,” said Aakash Gobin, a junior political science major. “It’s an important way for me to connect to my Indian and Hindu heritage. It's a thousands-of-years-old tradition passed from my ancestors to me, and I want to continue it.”
Some liken Diwali to Hannukah, as both are referred to as “festival of lights” and celebrate good prevailing over evil.
Sasha Restifo, a religious studies professor in the Jain Studies Program, explained how Diwali comes from the Sanskrit word dipavali, which means “row of lights.”
“Diwali is one of the most important holidays in India because it encompasses so many different meanings and important events in different religious traditions,” Restifo said. “I think it's a great holiday because it unites different religious traditions. Hindus, Sikhs and Jains all celebrate it even though they view it with different meanings.”
Diwali traditions typically include oil lamps called diyas placed in rows inside of homes, traditional Indian dishes and sweets, colorful designs called rangoli made up of sand, flower petals and rice placed at home entrances and nighttime fireworks.
Srimant Mohanty is an international student who grew up marking the festival with his family in India.
“Diwali is a festival where you meet with the people you spend your life with,” said Mohanty, who is a graduate computer science student. “You eat food and share with your relatives and neighbors. You share your joy and happiness with others. It’s beautiful to meet with people in your life…it refreshes you.”