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The Official Student News Site of Parkway West High

Pathfinder

The Official Student News Site of Parkway West High

Pathfinder

Lighting up the holidays; Students reflect on their Diwali traditions

Decorating the house, cooking food and getting dressed up, Hindu students prepare to celebrate Diwali, the festival of lights. 

Diwali is a major Indian holiday that typically falls around late autumn [Oct. 24, this year] and represents the triumph of light over dark. The festival is a five-day celebration that includes colorful decorations, fireworks, rows of lit candles and lamps, traditional clothing and lots of food.

Sophomore Nidhi Pejathya lights candles to welcome guests on Diwali. An urli is a traditional Indian decoration filled with water, flowers and candles that are lit during the holiday. “Diwali is the festival of lights, so we greet the goddess Lakshmi with [them]. In our culture, a huge saying is ‘treat your guests like god,’ so we do the same for them as we would for the goddess,” Pejathya said. (Photo courtesy of Nidhi Pejathya)
“It’s really fun to celebrate [Diwali] with my family,” junior Swati Kumar said. “I love the food that we make and the culture overall. Dressing up and doing fireworks is fun.”

As well as putting up decorations and wearing traditional clothing, it is customary to cook and eat a plethora of food. Kumar likes to spend time with her mom shopping for food and preparing the perfect meal.   

“Typically, we get sweets such as laddus and gulab jamuns. I enjoy making halwa with my mom, which is made out of milk, almonds and butter. For dinner on Diwali, we make a lot of food, such as different vegetables, curries and a variety of puddings. I overall really enjoy cherishing our meal with my family,” Kumar said.

During Diwali, it is tradition to embellish your house with festive decor. It’s most common to decorate with candles and lamps symbolizing the light-over-dark aspect of the holiday. Though some decorations are bought, sophomore Nidhi Pejathaya’s family decorates with handmade items. 

“My mom makes all  her decorations by hand, and decorates the entire house. Diwali is a heavily religiously tied event, so my mom sets up an altar and l make decorations for the backdrop and the table it’s on. They usually consist of traditional colors such as red, orange and green. We always used fake marigold flowers along with small oil lamps called diyas. We also make a Toran for our front door with felt, although it’s traditionally made with Peepal or Mango Leaves. A Toran is supposed to welcome Goddess Laxmi into your home since Diwali is to celebrate Laxmi,” Pejathaya said.

The decoration Rangoli, made out of sand or chalk,
is used to welcome the Goddess Lakshmi.
(Photo courtesy of Swati Kumar)

Many people who celebrate Diwali are reminiscent of spending the holiday with their friends and family. Pejathaya holds the memories of celebrating with her childhood neighbors close to her heart. 

“Before we moved to St. Louis, our neighborhood was predominantly white. We would call all of the kids, because they were all around our age, to come and celebrate it with us,” Pejathaya said. “It was like a huge thing for me because it’s not part of their culture, and it’s not something they usually do. They would all come over and burst firecrackers and eat our sweets.”

While some gather in their homes for Diwali, others, such as junior Chetan Uppara, gather at the temple for religious and social purposes. 

“We go to the temple to [pray] and talk to the priests for blessings. Then, my family and 20 others, make food for all the people who come to the temple, approximately 3,000 people. Afterward, we go outside and light sparklers, and there is a huge firework show,” Uppara said. 

As well as being a time of light and celebration, the holiday brings clarity and focus to those who celebrate it.

“Diwali means a lot to my family and me, primarily because of the happiness surrounding [the festival],” Uppara said. “There’s a feeling you have in your heart that some entity is helping you and making you more self-confident, and it helps me focus on life.”

   

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Lily West
Lily West, Staff Writer
Pronouns: she/her Grade: 10 Years on staff: 2 What was your favorite childhood TV show? My favorite childhood TV show was Phineas and Ferb What is your favorite book? My favorite book is Ramie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo. What motivates you? What motivates me is seeing my work completely finished and seeing how far I have come, as well as looking back at my accomplishments.
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    CindyOct 25, 2022 at 4:54 pm

    Lovely story lily! I learned many new things about Diwali

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The Official Student News Site of Parkway West High
Lighting up the holidays; Students reflect on their Diwali traditions