Share the light of Diwali

Share the light of Diwali

This week in India is the biggest Hindu celebration of the calendar year. Every neighborhood is filled with stories, sweets and gifts, as well as fireworks and lights for Diwali. Indian Americans, however, are more likely to want to celebrate because it is a smaller community. Diwali in Evanston is a time for sharing stories, giving gifts, lighting lights, and making connections.

Berry Pike Cafe, 1100 Davis St. owner Bindu Reddy shared details of key traditions that she and her family keep alive. She attends her son’s school every year (years ago, it was a day care at YMCA, now it’s an elementary school) and shares the Diwali stories. Each child receives small gifts and mementos that she prepares.

Reddy stated that the festival of lights is celebrated every year in October or November on the darkest night of the lunar cycle. One of the most common stories associated with Diwali in India is about King Rama. Sita, Rama's wife in Lanka, is captured by an evil king. He builds an army of monkeys (vanara), to save her. They build a bridge from India to Sri Lanka, and invade Sita to kill the evil King. Millions of lights are scattered across Ayodhya as Sita and Rama return home to greet them.

Hindus have been lighting lights to celebrate Diwali for many years. To remember the story about the lights that lead home and to symbolise light over darkness and good over evil.

Diwali is celebrated for five days. Dhanteras, the first day of Diwali (November 2, this year), is when people clean and decorate their homes. Rangolis are elegant designs made with rice flowers. You would give gifts that are precious like silver or gold.

Naraka Chaturdashi is the second day. Also known as "Choti Diwali", it is a festival that is dedicated to "Yamraj", the Lord of Death. It is meant to prevent untimely death.

The main Diwali day is on the third day. It is believed that Goddess Lakshmi will bless the homes of those who celebrate Diwali on November 4. The homes are decorated with tiny oil diyas and candles, as well as electric lights. Families meet to exchange gifts, light fireworks and burst crackers. There are many sweets and gifts that are exchanged.

Some celebrate Govardhan puja on the fourth day.

The last day of the festival is Bhai Dooj. Sisters invite their brothers to a lavish dinner and pray for their long, happy lives.

Reddy and his family continue these traditions by inviting friends to their restaurant for sweets, sparklers and lights. They may also take sweets and gifts to their friends' houses, as they are unable to gather due to COVID-19. Evanston's traditions are still alive thanks to past years of celebrations, sparklers and stories told to children.

Reddy's son is invited to Bhai Dooj's cousin's house on day five by his father, as there are no siblings in their small families. Northwestern invites Indian students to join their joyful celebrations, making them seem larger.

Our Indian American and Hindu friends wish you a happy Diwali. We can all be grateful for light over darkness, good over evil, and we can all hope for the prosperity of our communities.

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