Honoring the Traditions of Diwali with Anagha Mhatre (EMBA’24)
To celebrate Diwali this past week, Georgetown McDonough spoke with current Executive MBA student Anagha Mhatre (EMBA’24) to learn more about how her family celebrates the Festival of Lights, the meaning of the holiday, and how she carries on her cultural traditions while studying at Georgetown.
What does the Diwali festival signify and its origin?
Diwali, the Festival of Lights, holds immense significance in Hindu culture, symbolizing the victory of light over darkness and righteousness over evil. Rooted in the tale of Lord Rama’s valorous battle against Ravana, it celebrates Rama’s triumphant return with his wife Sita. The lighting of lamps, exchange of sweets, and fireworks signify the triumph of goodness and knowledge over ignorance and darkness.
Beyond its mythological origins, Diwali also had historical ties to India’s early agrarian society, aligning with the last harvest before winter. During this time, prayers were offered to goddess Lakshmi for prosperity and good fortune. Interestingly, Diwali continues to hold financial importance in modern times, as Indian businesses regard it as the first day of the financial new year. This signifies new beginnings, auspicious ventures, and seeking blessings for wealth and success.
How do you celebrate Diwali and honor the traditions of the holiday?
During Diwali, my family and I celebrate with a vibrant display of traditions that bring joy and togetherness. The festivities begin with the illumination of our home with diyas (earthen lamps) and decorative lights, symbolizing the victory of light over darkness. We also make rangoli, creating colorful and intricate designs on the floor. We prepare traditional dishes like sweets, snacks, and savory delicacies, each recipe passed down through generations. As the aroma of these delectable treats fills our home, we eagerly anticipate the arrival of friends and family.
Hosting loved ones at our house is a cherished part of our celebration. We gather, exchange gifts, share laughter, and indulge in delightful feasts together. These moments of camaraderie and gratitude for the blessings we have remind us of the importance of staying on the path of righteousness and spreading joy. Diwali serves as a beautiful reminder to appreciate the goodness in our lives, nurture our relationships, and strive to walk the path of goodness, kindness, and gratitude throughout the year.
Have you carried on those traditions while studying at Georgetown McDonough?
Last year, a beautiful display of cultural diversity and celebration graced our classroom during Diwali festivities. Several of our classmates adorned themselves in intricately designed saris, kurtas, lehengas, and other exquisite garments, each a testament to the rich cultural heritage.
Do you have a favorite memory from the festival over the years?
It is difficult to pick just one, but there are some truly precious memories that stand out. One of the most important memories for me is when I was 10 years old. My parents sat my brother and me down to explain how firecrackers, which are integral to any kid’s Diwali celebration, are harmful to the environment. They asked us if we were willing to trade our firecracker allowance for additional new clothes. Without hesitation, we agreed! Over the next few years, we approached our parents to donate our firecracker allowance to a local orphanage.
Another fun memory is how we used to construct castles made of soil, decorating them with statues of kings and soldiers. The process of building these castles was intricate and passed down from older kids to younger ones. As accomplished castle builders, we used broken construction pipes to create tunnels within the castles. We also grew mustard greens around the castle to emulate farms and diligently guarded it to prevent any harm during the festive season.
How can the Georgetown community commemorate the festival this time of year?
I believe that knowledge and awareness are among the most potent tools for fostering inclusivity and nurturing harmony. In this regard, I feel that Georgetown is doing a commendable job by spreading awareness about celebrations from diverse cultures and engaging with individuals like me to gain a firsthand understanding of the significance of particular festivals. Georgetown can further enhance this tradition by planning with students to celebrate these festivals collectively. By involving students in the planning process, the university can create more meaningful and inclusive celebrations, thereby fostering a deeper sense of cultural understanding and unity among its community.