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Celebrating Diwali

Just a few days after this year’s Diwali holiday, on November 8, 2021, Bansari Gujar, MD, P’28 shared with Gilman’s Middle School a little bit about her culture and her family’s traditions. Dr. Gujar, who was born and raised in india, explained that the word Diwali (pronounced dee·wah·lee) translates to row of lights. Dr. Gujar outlined each day of the celebration of Diwali, which is celebrated in many parts of the world.

Day One: Dhanteras

Families spend a lot of time getting ready for the five-day festival, cleaning their houses, preparing sweets and treats, and making or buying paper lanterns adorned with elaborate designs. “I remember being woken up at 4:30 or 5 in the morning by my grandmother,” she remembered. And even though Dr. Gujar wasn’t a fan of the early morning at the time, she said those were her “most favorite memories of my grandmother.” This day is meant to express gratitude for all of life’s blessings.

Day Two: Kali Chaudas or Chhoti Diwali

This day’s rituals are meant to symbolize the removal of negative energies. “Think of your inner demons like jealousy, anger, fear, insecurities … and then put them in the food. Fry it in deep, hot oil to symbolize destruction.” She said the first batch of food — the one with the symbolic demons — gets tossed. But subsequent batches are eaten and enjoyed.

Day Three: Diwali

The third day is the festival of Diwali. This is the darkest night, celebrated on the night of the new moon. Dr. Gujar said that on this day, people are supposed to “find your inner light and use it to brighten the light of those around you.” The evening is spent with celebration, fireworks, blessings, and lots of gifts. Often, the exchanged gifts are money; a symbol for luxury to represent good luck. Some exchange silver or gold coins. Today, some people may even prefer to use more modern forms of currency, like Pokémon cards.

Day Four: New Year Day Padva

On this day, people wish everyone a happy new year: “Saal Mubaarak,” a term which originates from Arabic. The day begins with early-morning fireworks. It is also a day to express gratitude for a good harvest. In her family, a “mountain of food” is cooked.

Day Five: Bhai Dooj

The last day of the festival is for celebrating family. When the lights dimmed in the auditorium, Dr. Gujar asked everyone to light their Diwali lamps — a tiny bulb that had been provided to each Middle Schooler — five times, once for each day of the festival.

She ended the presentation with a challenge for all the boys and faculty in the spirit of the tradition: “How are we going to find our inner light? How are we going to brighten the lives of those around us?”


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