SALT LAKE CITY — Utahns lit up the darkness at the Krishna Temple this weekend to celebrate the Hindi holiday Diwali, the Festival of Lights.
For believers, the festival is a celebration of the divine triumph of good over evil.
“Diwali is the Festival of Lights, and we celebrate the welcoming of the Lord back after fourteen years of exile,” said Pakhi Misra, from India. “To welcome the Lord we had to light lamps, because he had destroyed the evil and won. So we light lamps, and we believe that it destroys the evil, not just outside, but also within ourselves, and enlightens us.”
Diwali is a shortened version of Deepawali — deepa, meaning lamps, and wali, meaning rows of lamps. During the festival, which occurs annually between mid October and mid November, households in India place lamps in every window and temple to illuminate their altars and bring in a good new year. During the festival, people welcome the return of the god Sri Rama by lighting up his city and setting off fireworks, according to the festival’s website.
Festival attendant Syama Vihari Das, from India, explained that the lighting of the lamps is also symbolic of illuminating the darkness in our own lives.
“So that’s the reason we light the lamps and offer it to the Krishna to celebrate Diwali,” Vihari Das said. “It’s a lamps festival, offering lamps to Krishna.”
The festival events included live musical entertainment, cultural dance, drama, presentations on Diwali and Govardhan Puja and a huge vegetarian feast. Visitors were able to participate in the Circumambulation of Govardhan, where they walk around a hill in reverence for Lord Krishna. The night concluded with the lighting of the lamps and fireworks.
“The first-timers get to come and experience the eastern culture and learn how we worship the Lord,” Vihari Das said. “They get an opportunity to offer a lamp and see the significance of the festival through drama and cultural dance, so they can understand the actual culture of India.”
Vihari Das, a festival attendant from India, hopes attendees left the festival with an understanding of how important spirituality is in their lives.
“Everyone should understand that spirituality and worshipping the God is the most important part in our lives,” Vihari Das said. “That is what we are teaching everyone here. Because if we are spiritually happy, then we will be eternally happy. That’s a simple philosophy: if we are spiritually happy, then in every aspect we are very happy.”
Although the Diwali is a Hindu festival, people of all religions are welcome to come and take part in their festivities.
“It’s not limited to a specific sect of people,” Vihari Das said. “It is not only for Hindus, it is not only for Muslims, and it is not only for Christians. Anyone can come into this moment and uplift their consciousness. It is for everyone. We are welcoming every Utahn to come and take part of our consciousness, our moment.”