Far From Diwali's Lights, The Warm Glow Of Home | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

Far From Diwali's Lights, The Warm Glow Of Home

Play associated audio

Small flickering oil lamps known as diyas are lighting up Indian homes in South Asian communities around the globe on Sunday as hundreds of millions of people observe Diwali.

Otherwise known as the Festival of Lights, it's a religious celebration of self-awareness and reflection. Diwali is a public holiday in a number of other nations, but it's not nearly so well-known in the U.S., where families must rely on themselves to keep the tradition alive.

Nestled among old colonial homes in Haverford, Pa., the Shukla home is a vibrant display of light and colorful decoration. Inside the kitchen, it's a feast for the senses. For the Shuklas, Diwali ushers in a new year for self-reflection or, as they put it, finding the light within.

Celebrations begin with a ritual of prayer called Lakshmi Puja. Shoes off, seated on the floor, three generations of the Shukla family take part invoking the Hindu goddess Lakshmi to bring wealth, prosperity and peace to the home. The gathering then evolves into a retelling of centuries-old tales of Hindu gods battling between good and evil, symbolizing a person's struggle within.

As second-generation Indian-Americans, Suhag Shukla and her husband, Aseem, are keenly aware of how easy it is to lose touch with tradition. They say Diwali pulls their kids back from the distractions of western culture to remember a heritage that places heavy emphasis on devotion to others.

The ritual ends with a song, Hanuman Chalisa. Aseem Shukla says it captures the resilience of Hindus who, generations ago, left their homeland behind, but have never let go.

"That came with them on the boats, when they came as sugar cane workers, plantation workers," he says. "That was, like, the few things they had, so they sing this with a lot of passion."

But, at the end of the day in the Shukla home, Diwali represents the celebration of family.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

U.S. Officials Believe North Korea Was Behind Sony Hack

The recent attack on Sony Pictures' computer network that resulted in a flood of confidential data has its origins in North Korea, U.S. intelligence officials say.
NPR

Japan's Butter Shortage Whips Its Cake Makers Into A Frenzy

For the Japanese, Christmastime means sponge cake. But a nationwide butter shortage has lead to mandatory butter rationing, forcing cake bakers to seek out substitutes.
NPR

Rep. Sires Pushes Back Against Obama's Cuba Plans

President Obama's action to begin normalizing relations with Cuba has drawn harsh criticism from members of Congress in both parties. One of those critics is Rep. Albio Sires, who was born in Cuba.
NPR

With Sony Hack, Nation State Attacks Go From Quiet To Overt

U.S. intelligence officials claim that North Korea was centrally involved in the hack against Sony. That's major news in the world of cyberwarfare, where nation states typically make covert attacks.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.