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Celebrating Diwali across cultures and borders
November 8, 2015, 11:00 am

Nearly every major Hindu holiday, from Holi, the Festival of Colors, to Navratri, the nine nights of worship to the goddess Durga, is commemorated with such resplendence and joy that is seldom found elsewhere in the world. It can only be described as a brilliant chaos.

In India, narrow alleys pack with impassioned devotees, singing and dancing unfettered from any burden they might have been experiencing in their lives. The amount and variety of delicious foods, in itself, is overwhelming.

But there has always been one holiday that reserves the most fervent spot in the hearts of Hindus: Diwali, the Festival of Lights. In Hindu lore, Diwali celebrates the victory of Lord Rama, a respected deity, over the demon, Ravana, and his return to his home kingdom of Ayodhya after a long period of exile. Lord Rama’s euphoric subjects lit small lamps, called diyas, in a line to guide their king back safely and swiftly, which is why lights are such a significant part of today’s celebration.

Diwali symbolizes the conquest of light over darkness, or on a more personal level, the purging of ignorance by the light of knowledge. During Diwali, devotees pray to Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity, seeking blessings and paying their respects.

Recognizing and celebrating Diwali and other Indian holidays is a way for Indian expatriates to keep in touch with their rich culture and heritage. However, many Indian teenagers living abroad do not seem to share the same sentiments of their parents’ generation. Having been born and raised in a foreign environment, a lot of these teenagers have only a vague idea of their traditions and often face difficulty balancing the culture of the land they grew up in, with the values and culture of a country they probably visit only during their school holidays.

But this need not be the case; Diwali or any other Indian festival can and should be seen by all Indians as an opportunity to acquaint and immerse themselves in the beauty and splendor of Indian culture; an occasion to experience the rich tastes and immense variety of Indian cuisines. Most importantly, these celebrations are a time when they can imbue the sense of community and friendship that is fundamental aspect of our Indian values.

This principle applies not only to Indian culture but to every culture. In the vastly gregarious globalized world, it is more than likely that you have a few friends who are of a different culture or ethnicity. Go out with them when they celebrate their special holidays and encourage them to join in yours. What better way to reinforce your own heritage, while simultaneously becoming more globally attuned culturally?

So this Diwali, even if you are not an Indian, go light up your house, eat some mithai (Indian sweets), and have fun with Indian friends. Chances are you will enjoy it a lot more than you thought.

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