Celebrating Diwali

By Archana Sunil

There are many stories to share about why Hindus celebrate Diwali or Deepavali (Row of lamps). Growing up in India I remember it being about Lord Ram returning to his kingdom Ayodhya from exile with his wife Sita and brother Lakshman. But it wasn’t until I came to America and met Indians from other parts and faiths of India that I realized there were several other stories around Diwali. I’ve attempted to share just a few here.

Let’s start down in the southern states. There was once an evil demon Narakasura, son of Bhudevi(Goddess Earth) and Lord Vishnu. His power and strength grew over time and eventually intimidated the Devas (heavenly gods) and he attacked their kingdom. When all efforts failed to subdue Narakasura and his evil deeds, especially the torture of women, the gods turned to Lord Krishna’s wife Satyabhama for help. Satyabhama was the only one who could kill Narakasura as she was an incarnation of Bhudevi. Narakasura had been granted the boon of only being killed by Bhudevi and none else. Satyabhama did not take long to slay Naakasura and redeemed the Earth of Narakasura. Another version of this story says that Narakasura was slain by Lord Krishna. Either way, Deepavali/Diwali in South India is celebrated with rows of oil lamps to honor this event.

Let’s go further up to the northwest state of Punjab, where the Sikhs of India hail from. Sikhs celebrate Diwali to commemorate the release of their sixth Guru Hargobind and 52 other princes from the Gwalior fort under Mughal Emperor Jahangir. He had been arrested for political reasons. True to his faith he however prayed for several days for the recovery of his oppressor from an illness. In return Jahangir ordered his release. But Guru Hargobind refused to leave without the other 52 Hindu princes and kings who had also been held captive. It was negotiated that whoever could hold on to the Guru’s cape would be allowed to leave with him. The guru then had a special cape made with 52 tassels so that every single person could hold on to his cape and leave the fort. When they arrived in Amritsar he saw that they were celebrating with lamps and sweets and they joined in the celebration, thus giving us the story behind why Sikhs celebrate Diwali. It is also known as Bandi Chod Diwas (The Day of the prisoner’s release).

Vardhaman Mahaveera was the 24th and the last Tirtankara (teacher) of Jainism. Born to a royal family in the state of Bihar, he gave up all worldly comforts in pursuit of spiritual enlightenment. After about twelve years he eventually attained Kevalnyan, enlightenment, and continued his journey for the next thirty years teaching others what he had learned and experienced. He passed away and attained Nirvana(liberation) at the age of 72. There was darkness all around and his followers lit oil lamps to overcome the sadness. So Diwali for Jains hence became a reason to celebrate the removal of darkness with light and of ignorance with wisdom and knowledge. The Jain new year starts the day after Diwali – Pratipada. So feel free to wish a Jain friend ‘Happy New Year’ too.

And finally, one of the most popular stories around Diwali from the northern parts of India – the return of the beloved Prince Ram to Ayodhya after fourteen years in exile. Prince Ram had been exiled to fourteen years in the forest by his father King Dasharatha who had to fulfill a promise he had made to one of his queens in a battle. As Prince Ram prepared to leave, his wife Sita and brother Lakshmana insisted on joining him. The three lived in the forests for fourteen years amidst many adventures. The most significant one being Sita kidnapped by Ravana, the ten headed King of Lanka. After several fights and struggles Sita was rescued by Ram and Lakshman with the help of several local kings and their armies including the monkey God Hanuman. When they finally returned to Ayodhya they were welcomed with rows and rows of oil lamps, colorful flowers, sweets and other festivities. The people lovingly crowned them King and Queen of Ayodhya.

Whatever the story behind each family’s Diwali, there is one thread that runs through all of them. Like many other Hindu festivals Diwali celebrates the victory of good words, thoughts and actions over evil; the victory of light over darkness and knowledge over ignorance.

I wish you all a lifetime of health, wealth and peace. Happy Diwali and Deepavali!

Issaquah / Sammamish Reporter: Celebrating unity and love / Sammamish residents gather for traditional Ramadan dinner

By Nicole Jennings, June 24, 2017:

“Throughout history, religious differences have torn people and entire nations apart.

Even in recent months, headlines have been full of hate crimes and acts of terrorism, both across the ocean and here in Washington.

But on the evening of June 16, about 100 people of many different faiths gathered at the Pine Lake Community Center in Sammamish to celebrate a traditional Ramadan Iftar dinner with the local Muslim community. Although half the people at the dinner were not practicers of Islam, they came together in a show of unity to demonstrate that the bonds of love and friendship are stronger than any differences between people.”

Read full article

Issaquah/Sammamish Reporter: Plateaupians for Peace to host seminar on how to have peaceful political discussions

Issaquah/Sammamish Reporter, March 27, 2017 by Nicole Jennings:

In these times of disputes, drama and bad feelings at the national political level, it can seem preferable to avoid discussing current events with family, friends and colleagues so that a blow-up does not occur. But Sammamish activist group Plateaupians for Peace wants those conversations to occur — just in a tolerant and respectful way.

That’s the theme of the Plateaupians newest event on March 30, a civil disagreement workshop at the Good Samaritan Episcopal Church in Sammamish. The Plateaupians are partnering with the Good Samaritan to host the seminar, which will educate attendees on how to have peaceful disagreements about politics.

Plateaupians co-founder Sarah Hawes Kimsey said that the workshop was necessary because “we need to learn how to listen better and to disagree” in a way that leads to finding common ground. “Instead of moving apart, we need to move together,” added Loreen Ehlers, a Plateaupian and member of the Episcopal church.

Read more at http://www.issaquahreporter.com/news/plateaupians-for-peace-to-host-seminar-on-how-to-have-peaceful-political-discussions/

Issaquah Review: Issaquah mothers, daughters among 200,000 marchers at Seattle Women’s March

Photo by Nicole Jennings

Issaquah Review, January 26, 2017:

“An estimated 200,000 people took to the streets of Seattle on Jan. 21 to stand up for the rights of women, minority groups, the LGBT community, the environment, healthcare, basic human kindness and a whole host of other issues in the Women’s March on Seattle.


And of the marchers, 952 came from Sammamish, Issaquah and Bellevue in buses with Sammamish-based Plateaupians for Peace, a group that focuses on treating others with respect and moving forwards in making the world a better place.


Plateaupians founders Sarah Hawes Kimsey, Cathia Geller, Liz Faaland and Kate Gordon organized 19 charter buses through Pacific Alaska Tours, Shuttle Express Tours and Beeline Charters to take the marchers from the Eastside to Judkins Park, the starting point for the event.”

Read more at http://www.issaquahreporter.com/news/issaquah-mothers-daughters-among-175000-marchers-at-seattle-womens-march/

Bellevue Reporter: PHOTOS | Eastside residents vow not to be silenced at Women’s March

Bellevue Reporter, January 23, 2017

Hundreds of men, women and children filled 19 charter buses leaving from Bellevue, Issaquah and Sammamish and headed to the Women’s March on Jan. 21.

News source: http://www.bellevuereporter.com/news/photos-eastside-residents-vow-not-to-be-silenced-at-womens-march/

Sammamish Review: Busloads from Issaquah, Sammamish join massive Seattle march

Sammamish Review: Jan 23, 2017

“When you have so many others standing up with you,” said Sarah Hussein Kimsey, a co-founder of Plateaupians for Peace, “you aren’t so afraid to speak your mind.” Kimsey and her group had organized the army of buses that would descend on Judkins Park.

“People who are privileged need to stand up for people who don’t have that kind of privilege,” she said.

Originally, Kimsey and Elizabeth Faaland, also a co-founder of Plateaupians for Peace, were planning a march in Sammamish in conjunction with the national Women’s March on Washington.

“Something was happening in our world and we needed a place to gather,” Faaland said. “We planned a march in Sammamish to show fellow residents they didn’t have to leave Sammamish to be part of something big.”

As inauguration day grew closer, support for women’s marches across the country and locally spread through social media. After group members expressed an interest in attending the larger Seattle march, Faaland and Kimsey canceled their local plans and chartered a bus.

They worried they would end up with too many unfilled seats, but instead of calling the bus company to downsize their order, as the march grew closer Faaland had to rent more buses. She made that call several more times to expand the fleet as demand multiplied.

“It feels good to offer what I feel passionate about and share it with others,” Faaland said.

News source: http://www.theeastside.news/sammamishreview/news/local/busloads-from-issaquah-sammamish-join-massive-seattle-march/article_afffaa72-e1be-11e6-8732-e7a4142a1e36.html

Macaroni Kid (Snoqualmie Valley – Issaquah): Parent with a Purpose: Meet Sarah Hawes Kimsey

What is your PURPOSE? What do you want to accomplish?
I was looking for a way to bring community together after such a divisive election.  My desire was not to focus so much on politics, but on the health and well-being of my marginalized neighbors.  I grew up in a neighborhood that brought each other casseroles during tough times; I wanted my neighbors to know that this support still exists regardless of religion, gender identity, disability, political views, etc.   I felt strongly that we, as a society, have to figure out how to work to move forward with out so much vitriol.  How to pick up the pieces after a difficult election season.
What inspired/encouraged you to create Plateaupians For Peace? 
November 9th I woke up and felt drained, defeated and worried about the future.  At about noon, I couldn’t take it anymore and I needed a hug.  I put it out on a neighborhood board, that anyone who needed a hug could come meet up.  That night we had 30-40 people show up.  From that initial meeting, we formed a Facebook group that gained traction rather quickly.  The group decided to meet again that Saturday and twice the number of people participated, mostly all strangers.  We lit candles, we talked, we cried, we sang. Many of us just needed to regain our sense of community and try to figure out how to move forward.  Now we are 530 members and growing everyday.

Issaquah/Sammamish Reporter: “Hundreds of locals to bus to Women’s March on Seattle”

A group of Sammamish women has organized an assembly of hundreds of Eastside residents to attend the Women’s March on Seattle on Saturday, Jan. 21.


The march, which will begin at 10 a.m. in downtown Seattle, is a sister movement to the national Women’s March on Washington, D.C., as well as to the hundreds of similar marches taking place around not just the U.S., but the entire world, that Saturday, the day after Inauguration Day.


Cathia Geller, one of the organizers from Sammamish, said that the march is a completely peaceful movement for human beings to show solidarity with one another and convey a message of kindness.


“The message of the march is peaceful — we would like to move forward, not backwards,” she said.

READ MORE at Issaquah/Sammamish Reporter:

We’re proud of the City of Sammamish for this Proclamation

City of Sammamish Proclamation:

In the wake of a contentious and discordant national election, we take this moment to pause and reaffirm our principles and values.

As your City government, our role is to bring people together and not divide them. Our job is to be welcoming of all people and all ideas in recognition that we truly are stronger and smarter together. We need to recognize certain essential principles and conduct our government and hopefully our lives consistent with those principles.

Consequently, as your City Council, we pledge:

-To do all we can to foster civil discourse.

-To ensure that City services are always provided in a manner that does not discriminate on the basis of race, sex, religion, national origin, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity.

-To foster a community that always encourages people to achieve their potential and help others to do similarly.

-To protect our air, water and other parts of our natural environment to protect the health and futures of our families and future generations.

-To welcome, without reservation, new people from all parts of our world, with an abiding faith in their potential to be part of and strengthen our community.

-To never marginalize or demonize any person or group of people.

-To respect and listen to people and their ideas.

-To understand that we have a responsibility not just to ourselves but to others in our region including many who are not as fortunate.

-To do all we can to ensure that our children will inherit a world that includes all of the good that the world our parents brought us into had.

-To encourage that our national, state and regional leaders uphold these same values.

We commit to regularly remind ourselves of these principles and to judge ourselves and our City by our adherence to them.

~Proclaimed, this 13th day of December, 2016.