09 Nov Celebrating Diwali
By Pooja Thakkar
In a few days, many in our community will celebrate Diwali, the Indian Festival of Lights. We asked Pooja Thakkar, a local community member and library lover, to tell us more about this celebration! Explore further with a Diwali booklist for adults, teens, and kids at the end of the post.
“Once Indiana’s long summer is over and the cooler fall evenings start, thoughts turn to the festival season, of which Diwali is the highlight. Many Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, and Buddhists celebrate Diwali across the world, and everyone is invited to join in the celebrations.
What is Diwali? When do we celebrate?
Diwali, festival of lights, symbolizes the spiritual “victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance.” The date of Diwali changes annually (based on the Lunar calendar), and it is always celebrated on the new moon night in either October or November. This year, it falls on November 12. It’s a five-day celebration with festivities spread across the whole month, including gatherings, lighting/decorating houses, making a feast, fireworks, rangoli (colored sand art), and sharing good.
How do we celebrate? What Diwali means to us?
Growing up in India and now with our kids in the US, each year is a different experience and a set of memories of this revered festival. Diwali is a festival that is very close to my heart. It is not just a time with family and friends but a time to shed away the darkness and negativity from our hearts, to welcome light and love into our lives, and to extend the abundance with our neighbors and community. Each year on Diwali, my family and I worship Goddess Laxmi who symbolizes unity, fortune, and prosperity.
It is the most magical time of the year. As it is the Festival of Lights, I make sure that our house is well lit up with (clay) diyas, (oil) lamps, and candles. We clean our homes and create intricate patterns on the floor and/or on tabletops, using rice, colored sand powder, flowers, and artificial reusable rangoli. My family’s tradition is to use lentils and dried spices from our kitchen pantry that we use every day to bring more abundance, prosperity, and good luck.
Diwali is incomplete without great food and mithai (sweets). Not only does it create an eye-catching presentation, but also it offers a rich tapestry of flavors from each category and transforms this festive season into a culinary celebration. The delicious paneer sabzi, daal makhni, jeera rice, samosa, Gulab Jamun, coconut laddoos, and jalebi are some of my family’s favorites. We always look forward to donning beautiful ethnic wear, doing Puja (prayers) at home, and going to the temple with our two beautiful girls. All this so they understand the importance of different cultures and religions and broaden their horizon on holidays and celebrations.
As we have heard many times, the greatness of a culture can be found in its festivals. Celebration of any kind should involve everyone around us, and our religious motto is “Sewa Paramo Dharmah,” which means “Service is our primary Duty.” Through the Sewa Diwali campaign, we extend our gift-giving and sharing vegetarian food with the underprivileged communities to help lessen the issue of food insecurity. We create booths, flyers, and social media awareness to collect vegetarian non-perishable foods, like mac-n-cheese, dry pasta, cereals, rice, canned vegetables, and more. In our trips to grocery stores, we give our girls an opportunity to be savvy shoppers and teach them to save and share with our community ‘One CAN At a Time’!
During Diwali, we worship, prepare, and offer a “mountain of vegetarian food also known as ‘Annakut’” to our God and Goddess. The delicious spread is the highlight of the celebration and as a mark of gratitude.
How can you celebrate Diwali?
The Festival of Lights has a variety of traditions that you can bring home and celebrate with your family. Diwali celebration has now become a platform for promoting cultural awareness and diversity, offering an opportunity for others to learn about and actively engage in this culturally rich tradition.
Ways to adapt the Diwali celebration:
- Spend time together with your loved ones.
- Make a delicious feast, including a variety of sweets and savory delicacies, and share them with friends and families.
- Decorate the house with candle lights and oil lamps (diya) to welcome the God and guests.
- Celebrate through giving – exchanging gifts and blessings, as well as sharing food with community.
- Enjoy firecrackers to celebrate life.
Local celebrations and places to visit during Diwali
To get ready for Diwali festivity and participation, here are some of local resources for you to explore. This year, Diwali will start on November 10 and end on November 14.
- Hindu Temple of Central Indiana to get a closer look of festivity and firework display.
- India Association of Indianapolis Diwali gathering to enjoy Indian music, food and culture.
- One stop shop for Indian grocery, Diwali sweet hampers, and Festival Décor, like candles, clay lamps, garlands, and more.
- Luxury salon to pamper yourself with ethnic wear and artistic jewelry for the whole family.
- Bawarchi Biryanis Indian Cuisine for everything from family dining to corporate buffet
- Biryani Hut for family dining, large catering, or carry-outs
- Sewa Diwali has a vegetarian non-perishable food drive that runs from October 15 to November 20.
We are truly blessed to live in such a multi-cultural and diverse world. Over the years, Diwali has evolved into a day that is respected and acknowledged by people of all races, cultures, and nationalities in the US, Malaysia, Singapore, Mauritius, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Jamaica, and more. May you enjoy this auspicious occasion and grand festivity with your family and beyond to welcome love and light into your hearts and homes.
“May the divine glow of Diwali illuminate your life with love and prosperity.”
About Pooja Thakkar
Pooja Thakkar lives in Noblesville with her husband Harshit and daughters Bhavya and Navya.
Born and raised in India, this multi-cultural, diverse community leader is passionate about making a difference and serving others to the best of her ability. She enjoys meeting new people and exploring new places and perspectives.
Her motto is “We all are unique, just know how to embrace yourself.”