PHOTO: The Diwali celebration at the Veterans’ Memorial Center on Nov. 2 featured over 15 performances bursting with color and energy.
By Katrina Haws & Dahlia Kraus
Lights and lanterns harbor hope
Lantern light fills the hallways and candles cover open counter space as senior Maya Dhond’s family partcipates in the traditional Indian holiday, Diwali.
Dhond has celebrated Diwali, the Indian festival of lights, for as long as she can remember. She enjoys adorning her household with sparkling lights, and the message the numerous lanterns and thousands of candles bring particularly resonates with the Davis High senior.
“I like the message […] it’s something I relate to just as a person […] The idea that if everybody loved each other then we could overcome all evil in the world is really important to me, so I think it’s good we have a holiday dedicated to that,” Dhond said.
Dhond appreciates the positive reminder and aims to spread the holiday’s hopeful message to everyone, not only those engaged in the festivities.
The teachings of Diwali also encourage sophomore Shaan Sylvain.
“I really like the idea of bringing light to our house and where we live because that means approaching life with a more positive attitude, and it’s this one time during the year where no one fights and everyone is thankful for everything,” Sylvain said.
The holiday’s emphasis on light inspires people to move “from darkness to light, from ignorance to awareness, and to foster kindness and goodwill to all,” said Leela Mamidi, an organizer of the annual Indian Association of Davis Diwali Gala.
Families foster a foundation of good fortune
Each year, Sylvain eagerly awaits her brothers’ return home from the air force for her family’s celebration of Diwali. Family is an extremely important aspect of Indian culture and is especially important during the holiday.
“For Diwali, families try to be together to foster their connections to each other as they pray for enlightenment and prosperity,” Mamidi said.
Sylvain treasures the quality time she spends with her relatives during Diwali. “It’s kind of like Thanksgiving and New Years smashed into one thing. It’s a really nice time with my family,” Sylvain said.
Junior Ishan Malik’s family also prioritizes connecting with all family members during the holiday, including those who have moved away from home. FaceTime allows his two older siblings to tune into the festivities from across the country, so his family can celebrate the holiday together.
“We all […] got to talk, which we don’t get to do super often anymore,” Malik said.
Treasured traditions transform the experience
Fireworks shoot vibrant colors into the dark October sky as Malik and his family celebrate Diwali locally with their own personal firework display.
Fireworks are a common tradition among many participating in the holiday, signifying the triumph of good over evil. However, not all families have flashy firework shows; others explore different traditions.
Sylvain recalls partaking in a ritual with friends and family in which the women painted the men with red paint and the men decorated the women with henna.
“It just felt very authentic so even though we weren’t in India, it was kind of like a little part of what it would be like,” Sylvain said.
Malik, Sylvain and Dhond all primarily celebrate the third and main day of the celebration, which is a common practice in the United States, opposed to celebrating the full five days as it is traditionally done in India.
To honor the message of light, in India, tons of floating lanterns are released illuminating the sky with a sea of bright lights. Both Dhond and Sylvain are intrigued by the authentic rituals that take place in India each year and are interested in witnessing the floating lanterns in person someday.
India being across the globe, Dhond describes her family’s celebrations as being “a lot more low key than how it should be done.”