The Parents Diversity Council Celebrates Divali ~ A Festival of Lights

~ Submitted by the Parents Diversity Council

In another year of adjusted celebrations due to the COVID pandemic, Bedford once again adapted in celebrating Diwali.

Diwali, or the festival of lights, is celebrated each fall by Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, and some Buddhists around the world.

Diwali is a 5-day celebration signifying the importance of knowledge, self-inquiry, self-improvement, knowing, and seeking the good and the right path.  It is a festive restatement of the belief that good ultimately triumphs over evil and light over darkness.  This year, the end of Diwali fell on Thursday, November 4th.

Last year, the Parents Diversity Council (PDC) started “A Cultural Mosaic” series as a way to showcase different cultures, traditions, or holidays with local Bedford families.  Last year’s online Diwali celebration was well-received by the Bedford community, with nearly 30 families joining the Zoom to learn more about Diwali through storytime, crafts, and some Q/A time.

This year, the PDC partnered with the Bedford Public Library to make this year’s Diwali celebration, titled “Let’s Light a Diya Together!,” even bigger than before. The event was held on Saturday, November 6, in the morning, but the buzz was building up for weeks before.  Craft activity kits were available for pickup at the library, and the children’s room also set up a Diwali station featuring different books about the holiday and provided a curated list of recommended books along with the craft kits.

“The Bedford Free Public Library was honored to collaborate in this celebration of light and community.  It was wonderful to have so many families visit the library to pick up their craft kits and to see a blend of families who observe Diwali and those who wanted to learn more about this holiday that means so much to their neighbors and friends,” said Bethany Klem, Head of Children’s Services at the Bedford Free Public Library.

In addition to sharing about the holiday and traditions, as well as a diya (clay lamp) and rangoli (sand art) craft, this year’s event featured a special homemade puppet show by Shuchi Sharma, a local mom who is new to the Bedford community.

Sharma originally made the puppet show as a way to teach her own children about the Hindu scripture, the Ramayana, which tells the story of Lord Rama.  Diwali marks the day that Lord Rama triumphantly returns to his kingdom of Ayodhya after 14 years of exile.  His constituents lit up the land with rows of lights, as a celebration of good triumphing over evil.  Sharma’s puppet show had the audience captivated with the detailed characters and engaging storytelling.

“It was a wonderful opportunity for me to be part of the Bedford Diwali celebration. I had the privilege to see the incredible families of Bedford who embraced the celebration and participated in the activities. As I narrated the story through the puppets, I was touched by the interest shown by the children as they watched the show. The best moment for me was when children showed their creations with the Diwali kits. They are all so talented. I am delighted to be a part of the Bedford community,” said Sharma.

At the end of the session, many of the children shared about their own celebrations of Diwali at home or in school.  Many children proudly shared other diyas they decorated or rangolis they worked on at home with their own families.

“I’m very grateful to the PDC and Bedford Public Library for sponsoring this event and allowing us to share this special holiday with our friends and neighbors.  I’m proud to be a Bedford resident where the community embraces different cultures and traditions,”  shared Sushma Raja, one of the parents who volunteered to present.

The PDC plans to continue the “A Cultural Mosaic” series throughout the year.  There is a planning meeting with the Davis PDC Committee on December 1 to discuss upcoming activities and events. If you have any ideas or want to share your culture, please let us know, email pdcbedforddavis@gmail.com

“Last year, with COVID curtailing so many celebrations, the online Diwali celebration turned out to be a great way for families to learn and celebrate together.  This year, we were excited to partner with the Bedford Free Public Library to continue to bring this celebration to families in Bedford,”  said Lilly Younger, PDC Board Member and organizer of the program.

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