Reflection given by Nikash Harapanahalli, ’20
Many here today might not know fully about what I am about to say, and to be honest- neither do I. I’m want to share with you all of a festival that has been celebrated annually for the past four thousand years, so to my right on the table is two important elements of this sacred celebration. The incense represents the purification and calming of the mind, and the oil lamp or deepa represents the cosmic good in light. Through those many millennia, we’re bound to forget things. So please take what I am about to say with a grain of salt.
Diwali is, foremost, one of the most popular of 34 different Hindu festivals. It is known around the world as “the festival of lights,” and in many ways it is. For Hindu-Americans it is a wonderful time to reunite with family members and to hear “So Nikash, how are your grades this year?” Diwali has a uniquely rich and deep cultural meaning that sets it aside from many of the other holidays. It is a holiday that represents an eternal struggle between darkness and light.
With all of that said, let me tell you why Jains, Buddhists, Sikhs, and Hindus celebrate Diwali, or as it is known in parts of India, Indonesia, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Thailand, Deepawali. The holiday celebrates the homecoming of the seventh incarnation of Lord Vishnu, Rama, who came home after 14 years spent exiled in a forest or defeating the Demon-King Ravana. It represents Rama’s ability to bring light out of darkness in the shorts days before the monsoon, when India’s usually sunlit skies darken to heavy rain cloud. Diwali in essence, is the preparation for darkness, a five day period where Hindus remember the good things of life and ask for better fortunes in times to come.
This idea of darkness versus light, and preparation of such, has many Indians cleaning their homes, finally organizing that one junk drawer that no one in the family dare touches. It means setting off bright fireworks to illuminate the night sky. It means buying new clothes and bringing new things into our lives. For me, it means placing an oil lamp, or a dipa, on my front step – a reminder of paying homage to victories of good over evil. It is a time of peace before fervent celebration. For many Hindus it a time where they dress up and go temple, and then to parties right after. It is important to enjoy light, happiness, and goodness.
Diwali offers lessons that shouldn’t be only specific to Hindus. This part of the year is stressful for everyone, for seniors applications aren’t to far away, for juniors, projects are ubiquitous, for sophomores, tests are racking up, and for freshmen, adjustment period isn’t over just yet. Diwali occurs in the middle of it all, and is a reminder to everyone to take a break. Take a deep breath in and breathe, find your inner light and peace in this dark confusion. This is the time of year where the days become colder, shorter, and generally darker. Diwali forces us to remember the light over the darkness, and to find the motivation to continue on. Diwali isn’t just a holiday, it is a break. Relax, breathe, and reflect, and above all else, take time this month to be happy. Wishing you all peace and light this Diwali.