Yashita Kandhari ’22

Come early winter, there is a flurry of activity at my house, everyone emptying and cleaning out every inch of space. We find things we forgot we owned, donate the things we do not need, rearrange and redecorate, scrub and dust every surface until, by the end of it, the house feels brand new. This is a yearly ritual we carry out in preparation for the festival of Diwali, when we welcome Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and good fortune, and Ganesha, the god of wisdom and the remover of obstacles, into our home.

Diwali is the festival of light: it commemorates the victory of good over evil and wisdom over ignorance. According to Hindu mythology, the reason why we celebrate the festival is to commemorate the victory of Lord Ram over the evil demon Ravana. After fourteen years of living in exile and after winning the war against the demon, Lord Ram finally returns to his kingdom with his wife and his brother. Legend has it that they returned on the night of a new moon, so to guide them home, the people of his kingdom lit up their houses with “diyas,” or candles. This is why people continue to put up lights and diyas in their houses to celebrate the festival. Diwali is also a time of new beginnings and opportunities. We pray to Lord Ganesha for wisdom and to remove all obstacles from our path so that we are able to succeed in our future endeavors. Goddess Lakshmi is said to bring wealth and good fortune into the homes of those who use this wealth in a way that benefits others.

The five-day celebration is one of the most fun times of the year for me. We dress up in traditional clothes and go from one house to the next, exchanging gifts, eating food, and sharing stories. Friends and family who have moved away come back home to celebrate. I love decorating my house with lights, flowers, and diyas and making rangolis-colorful geometric designs made at the entrance of any house with colored sand and petals. My house always seems to be filled with people paying visits to wish us a happy Diwali. At night, we celebrate by lighting fireworks.

Like any holiday, Diwali too is about family, friends, and loved ones. The festival has the amazing ability to bring people together in celebration. It presents an opportunity to reconnect with old friends, and form relationships with new people. At Davidson, each of us become a part of an extended family. As members of this family, we owe it to each other to learn more about the traditions and practices we each hold dear. It is because of this that I hope people participate in the celebration of this festival as it will bring us closer together and lead us to have a greater appreciation of the diversity that Davidson holds.

We are surrounded by a community of people who are here to learn to better themselves so that they can make the world a better place. It is important to take stock and “clean-out” our lives so that we are able to open ourselves to new possibilities and knowledge and find the strength to defeat all obstacles in our path. We have to continue to remain hopeful in all our endeavors and continue to believe in the so-called “myth” that good always wins over evil. On this night, we gather to celebrate light.