Diwali is a fun and friendly holiday celebrating the good things in life

Photo courtesy Shivali Patel
Dancers in traditional outfits during the 25th Silver Jubilee Diwali, held Nov. 23, 2019 at Sobrato High School.

By Poonam Chabra

Poonam Chabra

It’s that time of the year again — Diwali is here.

Diwali, or “Deepawali,” is one of India’s biggest festivals. It gets its name from the row of clay lamps (“deep”) that Indians light in a row (“avali”) outside their homes during this auspicious day. Hence it is also known as the Festival of Lights.

Per Hindu mythology, it is the day Lord Rama returned to the capital of his kingdom, Ayodhya, after defeating the feared demon Ravana. The people of Ayodhya lit lamps to celebrate his arrival. Diwali is celebrated by most Indians, regardless of their faith and/or religious inclination, though some communities of India interpret the reason for the celebration slightly differently. However, in all interpretations one common thread rings true: the festival marks the triumph of good over evil and of light over darkness.

Here’s what some of the local Indian American community members have to say about Diwali and what it means for them:

Sangeeta Bhatia from Morgan Hill said, “We celebrate Diwali with family, friends and community by gathering for kirtan (prayers) at Sikh Temple (Gurdwara) and lighting candles. The special significance of this day for the Sikh community is to commemorate the triumph of Shri Guru Hargobind, who, in 1619, saved the lives of the 52 men, without any violence. Sikhs celebrated the return of Shri Guru Hargobind by lighting the Golden Temple and this tradition continues today. So Just like all Indians across regions and religions, the Sikh community celebrates Diwali as a symbol of victory of good over evil.”

For Shyam Venkatesan from Gilroy, “Diwali means spending time with the family, preparing a delicious and special spread at home (including Indian sweets), decorating the entrance to the house with Rangoli (colored powder), and fireworks (where they are legal).”

For Rani Bains from Gilroy, “Diwali is the festival of lights that involves feasts, time spent with family, and unification of people with different backgrounds to commemorate heritage. Additionally, as a Sikh, it is a celebration that coincides with a holiday known as Bandi Chhor Divas in order to honor a religious historic event (outlined by Sangeeta) that highlights the triumph of good over evil.”

Dilip Patel from Morgan Hill says, “In our family Diwali means a feeling of pure joy in our hearts and lifted spirits, with all the festivities and yummy food to savor.”

The Indian Association of South Santa Clara County, a nonprofit organization and an initiative of the Indian American community living in the South Santa Clara County, will host their annual event again to celebrate Diwali this year, albeit virtually and on a much smaller scale.

IASC’s mission is to bring together South Santa Clara County’s Indian community to celebrate India’s rich heritage and culture and to serve the extended community. IASC encourages, promotes, and strengthens community spirit, while at the same time celebrates, shares and showcases India’s culture and traditions.

During the past several years, IASC has been organizing events celebrating popular Indian festivals (like Diwali, Holi and Navratri) and landmark historical events (like the Indian and American Independence Days).

It may also be pertinent to mention that IASC and myself will also be among the proud honorees at the Morgan Hill Community Foundation’s Annual Philanthropy Gala this year. The MHCF invites local nonprofit organizations to honor an outstanding philanthropist or volunteer to be featured at this event, where both the non-profit organization and the exceptional philanthropist or volunteer are recognized. This year the event will be held online Nov. 13. For details please visit www.morganhillcf.org/events.

This year’s IASC event celebrating Diwali is scheduled to be held virtually from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 15. It will be streamed live through IASC’s Facebook page, via a Zoom webinar, and on YouTube. A large number of guests from across the Indian American and other communities in Santa Clara County are expected to virtually attend the event. Information on how to attend the virtual event will be posted on IASC’s website at www.iascinfo.com and on IASC’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/iasc.mh on Nov. 5, 2020. IASC invites and welcomes everyone to join in the celebration.

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