I have the habit of making every smallest of the events in some way special. Something that people cherish even after a few days. One such event was the Diwali celebration that was held on Friday. This was to be one cultural experience, embellished with Indian food, Indian music, Indian Dance, Indian customs and Indian people all around !
I started the celebrations with this small mantra which I think captures the essence of diwali very well.
असतो मा सद्गमय
तमसो मा ज्योतिर्गमय
मृत्योर् मा अमृतं गमय
ॐ शांति शांति शांति
Lead us from the unreal to the real
Lead us from the darkness to the light
Lead us from death to immortality.
Let there be peace, peace and peace.
This was my Diwali party opening speech. (I had taken from some website). There was something in this speech that struck me and hence I loved it. The essence of the speech was not religious and hence i am sure everyone was able to connect with it.
While Deepavali(Diwali) is popularly known as the "festival of lights", the most significant spiritual meaning is "the awareness of the inner light".
Central to Hindu philosophy is the assertion that there is something beyond the physical body and mind which is pure, infinite, and eternal, called the Atman. Just as we celebrate the birth of our physical being, Diwali is the celebration of this Inner Light, in particular the knowing of which outshines all darkness (removes all obstacles and dispels all ignorance), awakening the individual to one's true nature, not as the body, but as the unchanging, infinite, immanent and transcendent reality. With the realization of the Atman comes universal compassion, love, and the awareness of the oneness of all things (higher knowledge). This brings Ananda (Inner Joy or Peace).
Come join me in this celebration of the inner light that exists within each one of us.
This was followed by the recital of the Gayatri Mantra.
ॐ भूर्भुवः स्वः ।
तत् सवितुर्वरेण्यं ।
भर्गो देवस्य धीमहि ।
धियो यो नः प्रचोदयात् ॥
What I loved about this was that there was pin drop silence when I was doing it. People appreciated what I was doing and went with the flow.
This was followed by the aarti to the gods.
After this was the part which I loved the most. This was the aarti of the guests. This is something I started last year, and I was really pleased to see that people liked it. It made the whole experience more significant. The simple philosophy that we treat our guests like gods, (atithi devo bhavah) is something that I cherish and I am glad that others liked it too.
We had everyone present undergo this little cultural experience and I also put tika (made from haldi) on every guest.
I had a few extra kurtas, so I had taken it to the party and had a few American friends wear it. I was a bit surprised that people who did not get it, were dissappointed.
After this the party was all about relishing the Indian food. I seem to have developed this niche in making Aloo Matar. This happened to be the fastest finishing item ! The menu also included, Paneer, Chhole, Kesari Bath, Veg Cutlet (on the lines of Aloo tikki), Rice,Daal, Pooris, Chicken(s), Raita, chips, and soft drinks.
Cooking for a crowd of around 50 people is really difficult and I was really proud of the other Indians in the dept who helped in organizing this.
The food tasted awesome. Though I could not taste all of it, one could make out from the expressions of the people around.
Just when people were settling down with the food, came the surprise of the night. Mine and my group's dance! This was the first time I was actually performing in front of people.
And after this group song show was done, I was centerstage :) teaching all the little steps I know. What was really nice was that people were not shy to try Bollywood dancing. This feeling itself was comforting and motivating enough to continuously dance for the next hour and a half.
Time to time I got company from Viggy. And we did put on a nice show I must say :D
After this we had the fireworks. We had got sparklers and this reminded me of my childhood days, when I used to burst crackers.
The party ended with more dance and more food :)
In all an evening well spent.
I am confident that whenever my classmates hear about Diwali, they would remember this year's Diwali celebrations.