What is Diwali?

Dancers at Diwali Night

Diwali Night 2014. Photo: Timothy Nguyen

I didn’t know what Diwali was until Monday night, when I got to experience it first hand with the UIC Indian Student Association. Diwali isn’t just a festival that gets celebrated every year by millions of people from around the world. It’s also a way of building community and expressing family values that can sometimes be underappreciated throughout the year. Diwali, also known as “festival of lights,” is an official holiday celebrated each year in countries such as India, Sri Lanka and Malaysia. It is referred to as the festival of lights because of spiritually: light shining over darkness, good overcoming evil and hope conquering despair.

According to legend, Diwali celebrates the return of Lord Rama after years away from his home, Ayodhya. Lord Rama had just defeated the evil Ravana of Lanka and rescued his wife in the process. To celebrate Rama’s return and his defeat of Ravana, they place candles all around, lighting up the path of his return. Rama is then named King of Ayodhya. This is what Diwali celebrates every year, good overcoming evil.

The night of Diwali started with short skits where the board members of the UIC Indian Student Association acted out funny scenes while talking about the history of Diwali. In between the skits, there were performances from various Indian student dance teams. After all of the teams performed, traditional Indian food was served. I had the curry chicken with rice. At the end of the day, I learned about the history of Diwali and I had a glimpse of another culture that I have not had too much exposure to.

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