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Diwali: The festival of lights

By Mahika Khosla and Catherine Nguyen Dec. 14, 2023

Yunseo Kim Art

On the banks of the river in New Delhi, 2.22 million lamps rose in the air, setting a new world record. This year, over 1 billion people, mostly in South Asia, celebrated the holiday of Diwali and honored the triumph of good over evil. Diwali is mostly celebrated in Hinduism according to the Hindu Lunar Calendar, but Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists also participate in the festival with their own traditions and stories.

While Diwali is traced back to ancient India, there are various legends concerning its exact origins. It was most likely an important harvest festival, and some say that it was to celebrate Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth and prosperity, and Lord Vishnu’s marriage or Lakshmi’s birthday. Other stories associated with Diwali include Lord Ram returning to Ayodhya after saving his wife, Sita.

“To me, Diwali means a celebration of light and good over darkness and evil. My family worships Lakshmi by asking her to bless us with peace and wealth, as well as doing a puja, a Hindu ritual where we gather around a little shrine and pray to the gods,” Freshman Lasya Madineni said.

Yunseo Kim Art

The traditions associated with Diwali are somewhat different for Buddhists, Sikhs and Jains. The Jain community uses Diwali to celebrate their founder Mahvira’s moksha, or enlightenment and liberation, from the cycle of life and death. Some Buddhists commemorate this holiday as the day Emperor Ashoka converted to Buddhism. Sikhs celebrate the release of Guru Hargobind, a figure of faith from the 17th century who was imprisoned for 12 years.

Yunseo Kim Art

On the night of the festival, people ignite firecrackers and light oil lamps called diyas, which are placed in rows along temples and set adrift in streams. The light expresses respect to the heavens for the acquisition of wealth, health, peace, prosperity and knowledge, as well as inviting Lakshmi’s presence. Families also place roses in pots of water, hang marigolds on their walls and decorate their floors with rangoli—colored sand or flowers on the ground in the shape of patterns such as the lotus blossom—to bring good luck. Many pray to deities and recite stories during this time of devotion. Gambling is also a popular festivity during Diwali as it pays respect to the Goddess Parvati and her husband Lord Shiva.

While the festivities on this day are full of celebrations, decoration and special food preparations, the amount of firecrackers that are lit during the night of Diwali has become a hazard of its own. As of 2022, India is the eighth most polluted country, according to The Times Of India, and New Delhi was at the top of the list for Indian cities with poor air quality due to the combination of widespread industrial pollution and also farmers burning leftover plant stubble after harvesting.

Yunseo Kim Art

Anticipating the air pollution spike during the height of the festival season, Indian officials took matters into their own hands and set many guidelines, such as shutting down primary schools and banning high-pollution vehicles to reduce the worst haze and smog of the season. Moreover, local authorities deployed water sprinklers and anti-smog guns to control the haze and urged residents to light “green crackers,” which emit less pollution than other firecrackers. Some Indian states even banned the sale of fireworks and imposed other restrictions to stem the pollution that has posed respiratory problems for citizens.

“Celebrating Diwali with firecrackers is fine as long as it is done in moderation. However, we can all be more mindful about how many firecrackers we are using and take the appropriate steps to make sure we are not harming the environment,” Junior Rishika Rastogi said.

Despite these efforts, a 400-500 level was recorded on the air quality index on Diwali, which is more than 10 times the global safety threshold and can cause acute and chronic bronchitis and asthma attacks. Firecrackers can also cause additional harm to revelers; for instance, a 4-year old girl celebrating Diwali died due to a firecracker mishap. While hosting celebrations in large gatherings can often strengthen relationships, they may also pose a dangerous health risk to everyone involved.


About the Contributors

Mahika Khosla

staff writer

Mahika Khosla is a sophomore at Leland High School and is a writer for The Charger Account. During her free time, she enjoys reading novels, watching movies with popcorn, and creating board games.

Catherine Nguyen

staff writer


Both a writer and an artist for The Charger Account, Catherine Nguyen is a freshman who likes drawing, baking, and taekwondo!

Yunseo Kim


Yunseo Kim is a sophmore at Leland High School and is an Artist for The Charger Account. In her free time, she loves to snuggle with her cat and eat snacks.

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