Diwali is a five-day Hindu festival celebrated between mid-October and mid-November. The festival is also known as the Festival of Lights. The celebration is symbolized differently to different people throughout the culture. Some of the meanings are “light over darkness”, “good over evil”, and “knowledge over ignorance.” The holiday is celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs, and Jains worldwide, including in the United States of America. The holiday is celebrated throughout the course of five days, each of which symbolize a particular aspect of the tradition:
This year, Diwali is being celebrated November 12-16. Our very own Leos celebrate Diwali as well and to commemorate the celebration, some members of faculty have spoken warmly about how they celebrate Diwali.
What do Diwali preparations look like for you?
Dr. Rita Patel Thakur: We have a two story home with the top floor as big open space and lots of windows and balconies at each level. We put oil lamps at every level, in all windows, and top of the house parapets covered with oil lamps about two feet apart. All my neighbors did that too. It was such a beautiful sight that I can see it when I close my eyes – even after fifty long years.
How do you typically celebrate Diwali?
Dr. Christine Jagannathan: “I […] enjoy getting together with other celebrants. […] It [is] a time to get every member of a household new clothing, make, or have people come to your home to make, all manner of goodies and then, come sunset, light a whole bunch of oil lamps (not unlike the concept of Christmas tree lights), but strategically placed throughout the house. If you happened to be travelling, you would pass by doorways lit up by oil lamps. I remember taking a flight on[e] time, and the pilot actually pointed out the lights as we were coming in to land.”
Dr. Rita Patel Thakur: Days [are] very busy. […] It [is] time to see all [my] friends, neighbors, and family. There [is] constant traffic in the house. Lots of food to share. Tea cups [are] filled constantly. And that last[s] for all four days.
How do you celebrate the Diwali New Year?
Dr. Rita Patel Thakur: We [get] up early, [get] ready wearing pretty new clothes, especially made for the day and [go and visit] all friends and family. This [is] the day to get blessings from all our elders. Elders are very respected in my culture. They have life experiences, knowledge, and wisdom. They have [an] honored place in our families. So having their blessings on the New Year Day is very important.
And firecrackers [take] up every evening after it [gets] dark. From the youngest member of the family to the oldest participate. The sky [lights] up with different colors and [a] variety of sounds every night.
How do Diwali celebrations conclude?
Dr. Rita Patel Thakur: The last day of Diwali […] is known as Bhai Dooj. It is a day for brother and sister. Sister blesses brother with Kumkum (red powder), raw rice and sweets, and wishes him health, wealth, and happiness. Brother gives sister a small gift – mostly of money. And Diwali ends on that day!
How was your first Diwali experience away from home?
Dr. Rita Patel Thakur: I was in Missouri, in the North West Missouri University and staying in the dorm. Everyone around was with blue eyes and blond hair. There was no cultural diversity. I was the only one from India in the whole town, not just in the University. There were [a] total of seven international students out of [a] total of 7000. And all of them from Europe except for me. No one understood what that day meant to me. I remember looking out of my room’s window, seeing [the] sun going down, thinking, “The sun is going home to celebrate Diwali, but I can’t,” with tears rolling down my eyes. It got darker, my candle on my window was burning out and my mind went home.
If I had been home, I would have made a little square (for a rangoli) – about 5’ by 5’ with mud, about one inch high – few days before Diwali. That place was to make beautiful designs with different color power. I loved doing a new one each morning for five days.
Special thanks to:
Dr. Vinaya Tripuraneni
Dean, Libraries and Learning
Dr. Rita Patel Thakur
Associate Dean, Professor of Business Management
Dr. Christine Jagannathan
Professor of Practice of Business Communications