Diwali / Deepawali / Tihar is one of the biggest festivals in the Hindu tradition.

Yesterday marked the start of Diwali, a five-day festival starting on the 15th day of the Kartik month as per the Hindu Lunar calendar. This celebration, also knows as the "Festival of Lights," signifies joy and peace, the triumph of good over evil, and the eradication of dark shadows, negativity, and doubts from our lives.

During this time homes and worship spaces are elaborately decorated with lights, lamps, diyas, flowers, rangoli, and candles. This is symbolically one of the most important festivals in the Hindu tradition. Families also perform Lakshmi Puja and pray to the Goddess of wealth to bless them with prosperity and wellbeing. This tradition is primarily celebrated by Hindus, but Jains, Sikhs, and Buddhists also have their own unique reasons for celebrating Diwali.

IPC Partner Congregation, the Nepali American Cultural Center of Baltimore, Hindu Buddha Mandir, is organizing a celebration to stretch over all five days, allowing participants to immerse themselves in the beauty and significance of each day. This special event invites everyone to witness the radiance of assorted colors of light that will adorn their campus, illuminating the surroundings and spreading joy throughout the community. But what truly sets Tihar apart is its profound respect and adoration for the animal kingdom.

On the first day, crows are worshipped as messengers, symbolizing their importance in connecting the earthly and the divine realms. The second day honors dogs, cherished for their loyalty and protective nature within families. On the third day, the festival turns its attention to cows, revered as mothers and the embodiment of wealth and abundance. The fourth day shines on oxen, recognizing their immense contribution to agriculture and hard work.

The fifth and final day of Tihar is a day of sibling love and respect. Brothers offer their devotion to their sisters, and sisters, in turn, pay homage to their brothers. This exchange is accompanied by the application of seven colors of Tika, the exchange of garlands, the sharing of sweets, and the warmth of heartfelt gifts. The prayers are for good health and long life, and the celebrations are filled with the joy of children playing on swings and the splendor of various flowers adorning homes.

The Nepali American Cultural Center of Baltimore is just one of IPC's Partner Congregations that has embraced Tihar as a time to not only celebrate traditions but also to foster a sense of unity and interconnectedness with all of nature's creations.

Their five-day celebration showcases the beauty of harmonious coexistence and respect for the world around us, a value that transcends boundaries and resonates deeply with interfaith principles. This is a time for love, brightness, and reflection, and so we ask you to take the time to reflect on the meaning and significance of this important holiday if you celebrate.

When we take the time to learn about one another we may begin to understand each other.