-by Priya Shukla and Elizabeth Roe- Bright candles are lit in every window of the house, family and friends gather together in a colorfully decorated house to celebrate another year, and elaborate mehndi designs (henna) cover the hands of many women. Every year, usually around early November, Indians all over the world celebrate one of the most important traditional festivals: Diwali. A Hindu festival based on the ancient Sanskrit epic, The Ramayana, Diwali celebrates the return of the divine Prince Rama, his wife Sita, and his brother Lakshmana to Ayodhya after they have defeated the evil King Ravana. The return of Prince Rama signifies the victory of good over evil, and light over darkness. Indian families place candles in their windows to “welcome” Prince Rama and Sita back home. Since Diwali acts as a start to a new year, many people also associate Diwali with the Hindu goddess of wealth and prosperity, Lakshmi. These lit candles also welcome Lakshmi into the house, and symbolize the invitation of wealth and prosperity in the next year. Although Diwali is not technically the Hindu new year, Indians use this day to celebrate the past year and pray for success in the upcoming year.
Many individuals in the Winsor community celebrate Diwali within their own families. In order to teach non-Indians about Diwali, ASIAM held an open meeting during lunch on October 22, the day before Diwali. Girls of all backgrounds were invited to come and learn about the festival. Many girls left the room with mehndi tattoos on their hands and a newfound understanding of Indian culture. Similarly, in Bollywood Club, members watched a Bollywood movie while getting henna tattoos, bangles, and bindis (the traditional red dots on some Hindu women’s foreheads).
A few years ago, there was a school-wide celebration of the holiday in which Bollywood club, with the help of Mr. Didier, hosted a lunch with Indian food and gave out bindis and had students giving henna tattoos in the cafeteria. Next year, ASIAM and Bollywood Club hope to join forces in order to host another school-wide celebration of Diwali.