In India, Diwali is huge. Gifts are exchanged, businesses close, fireworks pop, homes are decorated, sweets are eaten and, perhaps most importantly, thousands of lamps are lit.
In Spokane, Diwali is huge too. But you probably wouldn't know it unless you were on the fifth floor of the downtown Comfort Inn Saturday night where more than 100 Hindus gathered to celebrate the sacred holiday (Diwali fell on a weeknight this year so was celebrated on Saturday).
Diwali, known as the Festival of Lights, symbolizes the victory of dharma (good over evil). According to the Religion Stylebook, Diwali comes from the word 'Deepavali,' which refers to the rows of earthen lamps celebrants place around their homes. Hindus believe that the light from these lamps symbolizes the illumination within the individual that overwhelms ignorance, represented by darkness. Y
On Saturday, the community sang, danced, ate and visited for about five hours. There is no Hindu temple is Spokane, so celebrations like this are a way for all of area Hindus to come together. Dressed in bright saris and kurtas, families danced to traditional Indian music as well as bollywood music. The kids have been practicing their dance moves for months, preparing for this event. And, of course, there was delicious food thanks to A Taste of India. This was the community's third annual Diwali celebration. Keep an eye out for next year's event because we're all invited.
Tracy Simmons is an award winning journalist specializing in religion reporting, digital entrepreneurship and social journalism. In her 15 years on the religion beat, Simmons has tucked a notepad in her pocket and found some of her favorite stories aboard cargo ships in New Jersey, on a police chase in Albuquerque, in dusty Texas church bell towers, on the streets of New York and in tent cities in Haiti.
Simmons has worked as a multimedia journalist for newspapers across New Mexico, Texas and Connecticut. Currently she serves as the executive director of SpokaneFAVS.com, a digital journalism start-up covering religion news and commentary in Spokane, Wash. She is also a Scholarly Assistant Professor at Washington State University.