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Diwali 2023 in Baltimore

Lighting Diwali diyas

Photos courtesy of the author.

Diwali, the Festival of Lights, is a holiday often associated with Hinduism and the Indian subcontinent. However, it is celebrated by South Asian communities of diverse religious and nonreligious backgrounds around the world, and it marks triumphs such as good over evil, light over dark and knowledge over ignorance. The holiday, based on the lunar calendar, is observed each year around October and November. Because the lunar calendar shifts each year, Diwali’s date also changes — in 2023, it fell on Nov. 12. It happened to be my first year celebrating Diwali in Baltimore.

For as long as I can remember, Diwali has been one of my favorite holidays — from firecrackers and time with family, to food and lighting candles (called diyas), there are many fun traditions that I loved as a child. As it happens, as an adult, I’ve generally had the good fortune to be home, or visiting relatives, during Diwali – so I initially felt a touch bittersweet about my plans to be in Baltimore for the holiday last year. However, I quickly made plans with other members of the Johns Hopkins University (JHU) community and was thrilled to carry on my favorite childhood traditions in my own home.

One key aspect of Diwali is, of course, food. Armed with a mountain of tomatoes, onions, garlic, green chilis and ginger — the staples of Indian cooking — my classmates and I set out to cook a large, traditional Diwali meal. There were definitely some nontraditional twists, including the use of an Instant Pot rather than a traditional weighted pressure cooker — an innovation that has drastically simplified (and improved the safety of!) many Indian recipes.

Cooking some of my favorite Diwali foods
Cooking some of my favorite Diwali foods.

Rangoli is a form of festive, colorful outdoor painting often drawn on the pavement outside of houses to commemorate holidays. Here in Baltimore, my incredibly talented friend (Pranjal Agrawal, a fellow JHU medical student) drew a beautiful rangoli on the parking pad outside of my house. These murals are traditionally made with colored powders, but this one was drawn in chalk! In addition to this artwork, some JHU friends and I lit diyas, or candles — completing our Diwali decorating. These candles are thought to symbolize the triumph of light over dark.

Lighting Diwali diyas.
Lighting Diwali diyas.

Diwali rangoli
Diwali rangoli.

All in all, Diwali 2023 was a lovely time, and I was glad that I celebrated in Baltimore with the JHU community. I hope you enjoyed reading about a few of my traditions and are perhaps inspired to have your own celebrations this year!

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1 thought on “Diwali 2023 in Baltimore”

  1. Being a visiting medical student from India, away from home during Diwali, being a part of Akshaya’s Diwali celebration was the closest I felt to my home.

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