Happy Diwali! I’m excited we can share this day with each other. Diwali, the Indian New Year (also known as the Festival of Lights) is the biggest and most important holiday celebrated in India. The already bustling country comes together and shines in all its glory with festive lights, song and dance and the colorful saris and fabrics that don both women and men. The smell of fresh, savory meals fills the air, bringing on sudden cravings for that delightful, spicy, Indian food and a cup of chai with friends. It’s a party in which everyone is invited.
As a first generation American Indian, carrying on the tradition of celebrating Diwali is not only very important to me, but it also holds many special memories. Since my childhood, my family has always celebrated Diwali both privately as a family, and at a special dinner, including entertainment, with the Indian community within Indianapolis.
It is customary to perform a Pooja (type of prayer) on Diwali; specifically, Lakshmi Pooja. Our family gathers at my parent’s house and performs the ceremony together. By performing the Pooja, we are inviting Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity, into our home. In preparation, the homes are cleaned and decorated with lights and other finery. Special delicacies are made as an offering to Lakshmi. The belief is that the happier Lakshmi is with the visit, the more blessed the family will be. We then share a small feast and enjoy our time together.
The community celebration of Diwali is usually held on a weekend night and includes a reception and dinner, followed by entertainment and dancing. I remember how it was always a big to-do to shop for a new Indian outfit when I was young. The styles are elegant and the fabrics shine with the richness of color on silk. The women dress their bodies with jewelry so unique and stunning, you might just think it’s fake. And with each new year, I have had the privilege to watch all the various venues where Diwali has been held, in an effort to accommodate the continuous increase in attendance. The festive environment of India began to touch our city more each year, where now, the celebration has grown so large, the beautiful Murat Temple houses the occasion.
Yet, what stands out most to me is the wonderful display of diverse individuals attending each year – and that number keeps growing. I love seeing friends of all nationalities celebrate this special day with me and our local Indian community. Sharing this celebration with friends, neighbors, and even elected officials throughout our state has become increasingly common. Actually, it was this inclusiveness which eventually brought me to my most memorable Diwali night of my life – The Diwali celebration in 2005. That night, my entire family first met my then-future husband. Despite a few hiccups, he fit right in and won the family over.
My husband and I have celebrated Diwali together ever since then and are now looking forward to this year’s celebration on Saturday, October 28. This year is the India Association of Indiana’s 50th Diwali Anniversary. The Gala is being held at the Murat Temple and this year’s guest speaker is the esteemed Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, from Hawaii’s 2nd district. She is the first Hindu to be elected to the US Congress.
This annual holiday is a magnificent event. I guarantee it to be another memorable night and one you definitely won’t want to miss! So, if you’re waiting for an invitation, here it is. Won’t you please join us in celebrating Diwali, the Indian New Year? We would love to see you there!