Middle School Humanities teacher Pinki Shah joined her daughter's 1st grade class on Friday afternoon to talk with them about Diwali, a festival of lights celebrated by Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, Buddhists, and people of Indian heritage and non-Indian heritage around the globe. Upper School dance teacher Priscilla Williams then brought her Upper School dance class over to the Lower School to join the 1st graders in learning a traditional Indian dance called raas using colorful Dandiya sticks. They had a fantastic time together!
The Office of Institutional Equity, Justice, and Belonging (OIEJB) recently shared the following information and resources with our community if you would like to learn more about Diwali:
Known as the “Festival of Lights,” Diwali (also spelled Divali) is celebrated by Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, Buddhists, and people of Indian heritage and non-Indian heritage around the globe. A five-day festival, Diwali is synchronized with the lunar calendar and typically occurs during October or November; this year it will be celebrated beginning on Mon, Oct. 24. Followers celebrate Diwali by gathering in local temples, homes, community centers, or any other appropriate location where they can spend time with friends and loved ones, set positive goals, and simply appreciate life. While this generally includes preparing celebratory foods, reciting prayers, and singing songs, it also involves honoring Vishnu, who is known as the sustainer of the universe, and the Goddess Lakshmi, who is known as the Goddess of wealth and prosperity.
Many Hindus recognize Diwali as a day celebrating the return of Prince Rama of Ayodhya, his wife Sita, and brother Lakshman after 14 years of exile. Prince Rama is considered to be an incarnation of Lord Vishnu and an embodiment of dharma or righteousness; Sita is an incarnation of Lakshmi, who is the Goddess of wealth and prosperity. The residents of Ayodhya were overjoyed at the return of their rightful King and lit lamps in his honor. Thus, the entire city looked like a row of lights. Ever since, people have lit lamps at Diwali to remember that light triumphs over dark, knowledge prevails over ignorance, and good triumphs over evil. For some regions of India, Diwali coincides with the Hindu New Year.
For Jains, Diwali is the day Mahavira, the 24th and last Tirthankara (the great spiritual teachers of the Jain religion), attained moksha, or liberation from the cycle of death and rebirth. Sikhs acknowledge Diwali as the day Mughal Emperor Jehangir released Guru Hargobind, the sixth guru of the Sikh tradition, from prison. Buddhists honor Diwali as Ashok Vijayadashami, the day the great Indian Emperor Ashoka accepted Buddhism as his faith.
Though the customs, rituals, and historical legends connected to Diwali vary from tradition to tradition, the essence of what the holiday represents—the symbolic victory of knowledge over ignorance, light over dark, and good over evil—is always the same, never failing to bring people together in a vibrant, positive, and unifying celebration.
See a video about Diwali, and find out more.