Lamps and Sunsets: A McMurry Diwali Celebration


On November 13 on Wah Wah Taysee, members of Religious and Spiritual Life (RSL) and the Better Together Alliance (BTA) invited McMurry students and faculty to learn about and celebrate Diwali: the Hindu festival of lights.

Everyone was gathered around the Peace Pole which was in the butterfly garden. Beside the garden was a table with expectant tea candles, candle holders that students had painted the previous night, and flavorful snacks.

As the sky blended into sunset hues, Jaden Jones, a member of RSL and the vice president of BTA, Celine Nguyen, president of BTA, and Reverend Marty Cash-Burless discussed the origins of Diwali.

The Hindu religion tells the story of warrior Rama’s rescuing his wife Sita from the evil demon king Ravana. Hindus light lamps to mimic the lamps lit to guide Sita and Rama home. Diwali signifies the triumph of light over dark—good over evil.

For Newar Buddhists in the Kathmandu Valley in Nepal, Diwali is celebrated as the day Emperor Ashoka converted to Buddhism. After the carnage of the Kalinga War, Ashoka became a patron of Buddhism leading to Buddhism’s expansion in the Mauryan Empire and beyond. Ashoka’s empire enjoyed almost a half-century of peace. Now people decorate temples and monasteries and worship Buddha.

After the brief introduction to Diwali, Chaplain Marty Cash-Burless asked all the attendees to turn on their tea light candles and place them around the butterfly garden.

I felt happy placing my cheery candle holder and tea light on the brick surface along with many of the other candles. It felt like we were lighting all of these as a community and with the knowledge that good will always triumph over evil.

Then food and drinks were served: vegetable samosas and gulab jamun. Everyone chattered about how delicious the food was. The spices in the samosas were delectable and the gulab jamun was moist and sweet.

“Diwali is always a happy kind of experience . . . the best part is the food,” Cash-Burless remarked.

As everyone socialized with refreshments in their hands, I was able to get a few words from Jaden Jones about the significance of this event.

“My favorite part is the turn out . . . a lot of people came. It’s important to get the word out . . . show how people celebrate different holidays. In order to better coexist, we need to understand where their beliefs come from,” he said.