Bringing the Light of Diwali to Every Home
If you are greeted with an ensemble of the brightest festive attire matched with delectable foods and a grand display of fireworks, do not be fooled into believing that you are part of an elaborate film set. These are just some of the wondrous elements that make Diwali the momentous affair that it is.
Diwali has its import and significance rooted deeply in Indian tradition, with ancient mythology bearing its source. While several stories through the ages have lent this festival an added dimension and value, the quintessential spirit has remained largely unchanged – all that is good reigns over evil and light over darkness.
What has changed over the years has been the manner in which Diwali is celebrated. While many of the major observances continue to enjoy prominence even today, there are still others that have either been diluted or even omitted altogether.
Causes for the change in Diwali celebrations are many. For one, people are less aware of the real significance of each of the observances. Many families continue to perform certain rituals because they have been followed for generations, but not all individuals understand the underlying reason for the traditions. In several other families, lack of access has been another reason for changes in the manner the festival is celebrated.
Among the largest contributors to the changes in Diwali celebration has been migration. Indians who have sought their fortunes overseas continue to celebrate Diwali with as much enthusiasm, but have altered it to match what is available within their confines. However, what is not just startling, but also heartening is the fact that there is a heightened sense of fervor and communal spirit that they manage to bring out.
Religious observances aside, every festival is aimed at breaking barriers between people and families, and bringing everyone onto the common platform whose basis is joy. The ability to spread and share love is what makes Diwali special. The sweets and gifts are only an excuse, and the brotherhood fostered goes much beyond pleasantries. This is what Indians in America have been able to evoke most beautifully.
Diwali is not a national holiday in America as it is back home. Nor is it a national phenomenon. However, nothing seems to have dampened the spirit of those looking to make the most of these special days. Only a few have the opportunity to come back to India to partake in festivities, but there is still plenty that can be done to realize the true meaning of Diwali and spread its joy everywhere.
The coming together of communities is of paramount importance at this time. Diwali has little meaning when it is celebrated only at home, and the exchange of love and wishes does a great deal in contributing to the flavor of the festival. Celebrating with the community is not just another way to strengthen bonds, it also helps bring home essential learnings like sharing, togetherness and collective gain. In a world that is becoming more and more individualistic, this is among the best ways to help demonstrate the importance of common good.
While the elders may already have their own vision and definition of Diwali, this is actually a wonderful opportunity to allow children to give Diwali an identity of their own. The Hindu American Foundation (HAF) has compiled an exquisite “Diwali Tool Kit” for children to not just explore Diwali in greater depth, but also be able to share it with friends in a school setting. Allowing for different kits catering to children of different ages, HAF encourages the use of role plays, dances, craft activities and traditional attire to bring out the main elements of Diwali – decorations, sweets and savories, greetings and lights.
Diwali has so much to teach all of us, and it would be almost tragic to keep something so profound to ourselves. Encourage your children to share insights on Diwali with their friends at school too. It makes for not just a very interesting cultural exchange, but can also help orient more families about the glory of Indian philosophy. The Hindu American Foundation has gone beyond making Diwali a gathering of Indians looking to share the joy. It has devised a way to take the magic of Diwali to every home in America.
The importance of Diwali in every Indian household does not need any mention. It is time we shared this love, light and joy with everyone who has touched our lives and make this world one large, happy family.