Diwali Celebrated at South: Fight for National Recognition

Hailey Cho, staff writer

As the leaves started to turn colors and pumpkins were carved and lighted, Hindu students at South lit their homes for a different purpose – to celebrate Diwali. Nov. 2 marked the first day of Diwali, the five-day festival of lights which started the Hindu New Year. The festivities for Diwali involved a number of preparations, junior Nikhil Ruia said.

Junior Ami Patel explained that Diwali originated from the Hindu story of King Rama, who spent 14 years in exile from the city of Ayodhya. The villagers of Ayodhya lit a path of lights to help guide Rama home after his defeat of Ravana. Rama’s victory against Ravana represents the triumph of good over evil, and Patel said that this is the main idea of Diwali. 

“It’s the idea that good is always going to win over evil, and that’s the [purpose of] light,” Patel said. “There’s always light and darkness; it’s a parallel in that sense.”

Today, there are many festivities that are a part of Diwali, such as Puja, or prayer, which plays a significant role in Diwali for Ruia’s family. Ruia enjoys the religious aspect of Diwali, so Pujas in his home are important to him. 

“[Diwali is] a festival to bring the gods into your home, so [it provides] a closer connection to the gods,” Ruia said. “We [also] have a mini shrine at our house.”

Another spiritual aspect of Diwali for Ruia and his family is going to the temple. Although Ruia did not celebrate all five days of the holiday, he said that his favorite part of Diwali in past years was going to the temple. 

“When we used to go to Lemont Temple, they made a massive statue of Ravana, who is a 10-headed demon, and they burned him,” Ruia said. “There ended up being a massive fire, and that was really cool.”

Patel celebrates the holiday by lighting many candles around her home, puja and rangolis – designs of colorful sand. Rangolis represent positivity and welcome the goddess of wealth and good luck, Lakshmi, into one’s household. Although Patel’s celebration was not unique to her family, she said that she always finds the customs exciting. 

“It’s fun to go around and place candles all over the house and then light them during the night time,” Patel said. “I learned rangoli from my mom. Because she grew up in India, she used to do them a lot when she was younger.” 

On the national level, many people, like Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois, want to recognize Diwali as a national holiday, according to WBBM newsradio. Krishnamoorthi, like Patel, believes that making Diwali a national holiday can teach others more about Diwali and how it’s celebrated. 

“When so many people are worried about the rise of prejudice, bigotry or hate, I think it’s all the more important to educate people about other backgrounds so that we can all live more in harmony, tolerance and inclusion,” Krishnamoorthi said, according to WBBM.

Patel she would be open to the possibility of school activities celebrating Diwali. Patel believes celebrating Diwali in school would improve South’s inclusivity.

“I would really appreciate it if I could teach other people [about] my culture and the things that I do [for Diwali],” Patel explained. “I feel like I learned about other people’s cultures through school, and by teaching people the customs that I have, they get to learn, too.”