New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

How to celebrate Hindu festival of lights at home

Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, is one of the most important holidays of the year for Hindus, Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs. This year,  the major celebrations will take place Nov. 13, but the holiday lasts five days. People light diyas, a type of Indian candle, set off fireworks and fill their homes with the diyas. Even though performing the poojas, or religious rituals carried out by Hindus to honor a deity, might be difficult in your room, you can still get into the spirit of the celebration in your dorm.


Lighting is a major factor of Diwali. Unfortunately lighting candles is not allowed in residence halls, and fireworks are definitely out of the question. If you live on campus, opt for battery-powered candles. Another way to illuminate your room can be with stringed lights, a dorm room favorite. Hang up the lights in a prominent place, perhaps around your windows or on a large open space. Combined with your candles, the ambience will be perfect for your night of festivities.


Rangoli are circular decorations placed in front of homes as a greeting to the Hindu gods. While these embellishments are usually made with colored flour, they can be replicated simply using paper. First, buy colored paper, and then find a rangoli design online. Cut the paper into the shapes represented in the design and glue them together. When finished, hang the design on your door and your room will be blessed by the deities.


Indian sweets are a big part of this holiday. Laddus, a dessert made with sugar, dried fruit and ghee, a special type of butter used in South Asian cooking, are commonly during Diwali. Another dessert option is payasam, a traditional creamy treat. Savory snack options that are easy to find include murukku and pakodas. Making these treats in your kitchen may be ambitious, so look for them at an Indian grocery store. Just remember to keep your food vegetarian, as most Indians do not eat meat during Diwali.


While there are no traditional Diwali songs, there is plenty of Indian music that can help you get in the spirit of the holiday. You could play traditional hymns, Bollywood dance favorites or, for a more modern twist, you can play the music of famous Indian composer A.R. Rahman. If you cannot pick a favorite then mix all three genres on your playlist and appreciate the different facets of Indian musical culture. These songs are all easy to find and are available on CDs and on Youtube.

A version of this article appeared in the Monday Nov. 12 print edition. Keerthi Harishankar is a staff writer. Email her at [email protected].

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