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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Festival of Light


Every year, millions of Hindus celebrate the most auspicious five days in the Hindu calendar, with the fifth and final day beginning the new year. The fourth day — known as Diwali, which was Oct. 26 this year — is marked by the lighting of candles and fireworks. In fact, on this day, people in India light fireworks first thing in the morning.
The origin of Diwali is seen in the holy scripture of the Ramayan. It commemorates the time when the Lord Ram returned to his hometown of Ayodhya after defeating the evil demon king of Lanka, Ravan. Lord Ram was exiled for 14 years and the people of the town were jubilant upon his return, so they lit the town with candles and bursting firecrackers. In fact, the word Diwali, or “Deepawali,” literally means row of candles. However, the emphasis on light during the celebration lies within the history of several events in addition to the Lord Ram’s return, each recorded in the Hindu holy scriptures (or epics) Ramayan and Mahabharat.
It was on the day of Diwali that Lord Ram returned home after 14 years of exile and war against the evil Ravan; it was on the day of Diwali that the five Pandav brothers — the helpers of Lord Krishna during the epic Mahabharat — returned from exile in the forest; it was on the day of Diwali that Lord Krishna destroyed the demon Narkasur and alleviated misery from the hearts of others.
Thus, Diwali signifies a time of moving from angst and darkness toward the joy and illumination of spirituality, sprouting the name: the Festival of Light. It is a time when those who have suffered, those who have made mistakes, those who have endured the various miseries that come inherently as a part of life are given a fresh start — a new light to guide their path to personal happiness.
The importance of Diwali is reflected in the Hindu community. Jay Kapadia, senior industrial engineering major, said he and others “count the days down ‘till Diwali,” and that he hasn’t missed the holiday at his temple in 11 years.
Hindus celebrate Diwali in similar ways, mostly characterized by the lighting of candles and fireworks. Diwali is a time to be at home and at the temple enjoying the presence of family, friends and the colors that strike awe in the hearts of all who celebrate the festivities.
At some temples, an annakut — a traditional offering of prodigious amounts of various food items — is placed in front of the deities, and Hindus around the temple worship and experience its beauty.
Like many Hindus, Payal Sandhane, junior technology management major, celebrates and enjoys meals with family and friends during the holiday. Sandhane and her family mark the festivities by lighting candles around the house and praying to deities, thanking them for all that they have given and for blessings for a desirable new year.
“Diwali would not be the same great experience year after year without my family, friends, and home-cooked food,” Sandhane said.
But many college students aren’t as fortunate as Kapadia and Sandhane and are unable to return home to enjoy the festivities. Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS) Campus Fellowship of Texas A&M will bring the third annual Diwali program, In the Joy of Others, to campus on Tuesday to start the new Hindu year in the right manner: bringing those who are downtrodden by stress and misery to happiness.
For Hindus and non-Hindus alike, Diwali offers a fresh start to a new year. In the spirit of the holiday, the Diwali program emphasizes how to start the New Year with happiness and avoid the looming perils of loneliness that can be attributed to worldly desires. The main message that emanates through this campus Diwali celebration is that happiness lies within the joy of others.
At the conclusion of the program, a grand annakut — made completely by students — will be offered to the Swaminarayan idol, and all students can contribute — so long as items are vegetarian and are without eggs, onion, garlic or gelatin.
The event is an opportunity for Hindu students to celebrate Diwali, and for all students to achieve a sense of renewal and to experience a part of our culture.
Herschel Patel is a sophomore biomedical sciences major

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