The world dazzles to the light of millions of diyas in the run up to Diwali. As lanterns and rangolis take pride in adorning households, phuljhadis and mithais light up souls. Here comes Diwali …
The Hindu festival, which literally means ‘rows of light’, falls 20 days after Dussehra on the 13th day of the dark fortnight of the month of Ashwin (October/November). It is widely celebrated as the day Lord Rama returned triumphant to his kingdom of Ayodhya defeating Ravana and completing 14 years of exile. Diyas/Pantya (earthern lamps) were lit on the road to Ayodhya to welcome him.
Legend also says that Satyabhama with Lord Krishna as her charioteer killed demon king Narakasura. This is the season of harvest and farmers celebrate it for prosperity. Diwali symbolises the victory of righteousness over evil, victory of light over darkness to bring in happiness and abundance.
Diwali is celebrated for 5 days. The day before Diwali begins, cow and calf is worshipped. The first day of Diwali is Dhanteras /Dhantrayodashi. Dhan means wealth. The second day is Lakshmi Puja. The third day is Diwali. The fourth day is Bali Pratipada or Padwa. The final day is Bhau-Beej or Bhai-Dooj. Sometimes days coincide with one another.
Diwali means indulgence. Preparations begin well ahead of the festival. Houses are cleaned. Savouries like gujjias, karanji, laddoos, namkeens, burfi, chivda, chakli are ready. Shopping for clothes, jewels and household articles is a favourite exercise. An occasion to exchange gifts, this season brings kith and kin together to worship, pray and enjoy.
India celebrates Diwali in unique ways. People bathe with scented oils. Dressed in their best, they visit temples and wish relatives for a happy and prosperous new year. Businesses observe Lakshmi Pujan to begin a new year of accounting.
As Rohan Gupte, an engineer in Auckland puts it, “Each day celebrates a different relation between man and woman.“Padwa” symbolises husband-wife relation, “Bhau-beej” symbolises affection between brother and sister. On “Laxmi Puja” one prays to goddess Laxmi who symbolises wealth, prosperity and well-being”. He adds that back home, when Diwali is approaching, we feel the festival all around us, shops have sales, more lighting everywhere, decorations light up the atmosphere, more sweets at the “Halvai shop”. Diwali is in the air.
For Sandesh, a student in New Zealand, Diwali always means ‘brightness’. This time he will shop for lots of calling cards so he can wish each and every friend and relative. He says Diwali is the time to come closer to your loved ones.
This Diwali is special for Chirag Goswami. He is blessed with a baby boy and has got a new job. His in-laws are with him so his daughter can celebrate with the elders. She will be inspired by their stories on Diwali and know our values.
Growing ethnic and cultural diversity of the Hindu religion and Indians abroad give opportunity for other cultures to rejoice in our festivals. Like every year Auckland city celebrated Diwali last week.
Adam Bartlett, working with healthcare company, looks forward to this event. His family always pops into the Diwali festival to get some good Masala Dosas and enjoy the performances.
Jason with his friend loves to see the colourful clothes and the energy around.
Miles away from home, we make it a point to enjoy this festival as much as we did in India. We miss the bazaars and preparations. We may not experience the Diwali nights with fireworks like stars shooting from earth to heaven. But our spirits are high.
No relatives around, no siblings or cousins for pranks but their places are filled with friendships made in distant lands. Rituals may have changed but euphoria is the same. Our little ones may not know what festivals are but they have fun following the customs.
We all have our own reasons and traditions for Diwali. This time again it will spread happiness and illuminate us. Happy Diwali to all. Let’s celebrate!