The following was contributed by clinical associate professor Poorani Sekar, MD.
Deepavali (also known as Diwali), the Festival of Lights, fell on October 24 this year. On Deepavali we celebrate the triumph of good over evil, light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance. Each region of India has certain customs and traditions associated with this festival. In Tamil Nadu, where I’m from, we believe it is the day when Lord Krishna defeated Narakasura, and hence it’s called Naraka Chaturdasi [Naraka’s 14th day]. The date the festival falls on varies based on the lunar calendar and typically falls on the new moon day.
We wake up early, before the sun is up, and take an oil bath. Taking an oil bath is considered the equivalent of bathing in the Ganges River. We then wear new clothes to make a fresh start. Many sweet and savory snacks are eaten and then distributed among friends, neighbors, and family. Finally at night we light oil lamps and light the night sky with fireworks. Mostly I enjoy this festival because it is a time for family and friends to gather and spend time with each other.
Living in America the day is easily lost since it is not recognized as a holiday here, and usually I spend the day working. This year I finally took the day off ahead of time and spent it with family. We followed all the traditions discussed above. We also did a lot of other fun things. We colored flower mandala designs and stuck it on the windows. We also made colorful rangoli designs welcoming good luck, prosperity, and the goddess Lakshmi to our home. We made chocolate elephants with such intricate details, and they were quite tasty to eat as well. This was the first time in years I really felt like we enjoyed the festival like I did back in India.
Here are a few links on the various traditions of Deepavali: