Disrespecting Diwali: A Look at Our Cultural Hypocrisy

A child lights candles during Diwali, or the "Festival of Lights".
A child lights candles during Diwali, or the “Festival of Lights”.

By Guest Contributor: Sridhar Karra

When I was a college student, I attended my university’s annual Diwali program, organized by a Hindu student organization on campus. In a university with a large number of Hindu students, turnout at this yearly event is substantial and attendance stretches far beyond the Hindu population. Students who are not Hindu or Indian enthusiastically attend in droves, with some professors in the Sociology department even urging their students to attend in order to understand and appreciate the Hindu festival.

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President Obama (and I) wish the nation a Happy Diwali!!

President Obama celebrates Diwali in 2010 by participating in a traditional candle-lighting ceremony in Mumbai.

Today is the first day of Diwali, a five day Festival of Lights that is one of the most important festivals of the year for many South Asian people and other Asian American people. President Obama marked Diwali with the following statement today:

Today, here at home and across the globe, Hindus, Jains, Sikhs and some Buddhists will celebrate the holiday of Diwali – the festival of lights.  Diwali is a time for gathering with family and friends, often marked with good food and dancing.  It is also a time for prayer and reflection about those less fortunate.  It is a testament to the compassion of these communities that so many of them have helped those that have been devastated by Hurricane Sandy.

Many who observe this holiday will light the Diya, or lamp, which symbolizes the triumph of light over darkness and knowledge over ignorance. As that lamp is lit, we should all recommit ourselves to bring light to any place still facing darkness.  Earlier this year, we were reminded of the evil that exists in the world when a gunman walked into the Sikh gurdwara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin and opened fire.  In the wake of that horrible tragedy, we saw the resilience of a community that drew strength from their faith and a sense of solidarity with their neighbors, Sikh and non-Sikh alike.  We also saw compassion and love, in the heroic actions of the first responders and the outpouring of support from people across the country.  Out of a day of sadness, we were reminded that the beauty of America remains our diversity, and our right to religious freedom.

To those celebrating Diwali, I wish you, your families and loved ones Happy Diwali and Saal Mubarak.

I join the president in wishing all of my readers a Happy Diwali!