These are the times of festivities in India, as I had mentioned in my earlier post. Soon we will celebrate Diwali – festival of lights. This is the most important and biggest festival of Hindus. This festival celebrates victory of good over evil. It is celebrated over five days with much enthusiasm and joy. I am also sharing some pictures of how last year’s Diwali was celebrated in my house.
Significance of Diwali
Beautiful earthen lamps adorn houses during diwali
Festival of Diwali or Deepawali falls on new moon day in the month of October or November, based on Hindu Lunar calendar. The original name deepawali means an array of earthen lamps. It later got shortened to Diwali. As the name suggests, Diwali signifies victory of light over darkness. On new moon night, the darkness is removed by lighting lamps and small electric bulbs of various hues and shapes. The houses, streets and market places are decorated with colorful lights. By lighting every corner of the premises, people try to destroy the reign of darkness. Darkness signifies ignorance and negative traits, and light is a metaphor of knowledge and positivity. Thus people celebrate Diwali as victory of positive forces through knowledge and wisdom, over negative forces such as greed, lust, anger, and violence.
Mythological stories of diwali
In ancient India people used to celebrate Diwali as a harvest festival. Like any other Hindu festival, there are many mythological stories and legends associated with Diwali. It is said that on this auspicious day, goddess of wealth Lakshmi was incarnated on churning of the ocean. On this day Lord Ram returned to Ayodhya after killing demon king Ravana. Bengalis celebrate this day as Kali puja. Lord Krishna destroyed demon king Narakasur on this day. People of different regions celebrate Diwali according to their regional customs and beliefs. All the stories associated with Diwali however have one common thread, and that is – good always wins over bad.
This day is auspicious for Jains as well as Lord Mahavir attained nirvana on this day.
Lamps are Lighted To
People celebrate Diwali with much enthusiasm. The houses are cleaned and painted. People buy new clothes to wear during festivities. Ladies decorate the entrance of their house with beautiful colored patterns called rangoli. I always enjoy making beautiful rangolis and alpanas in my house. In the first picture of the collage below, my son made Ganpati using lentils. Houses are decorated with colourful buntings and bandanwar and earthen lamps. Nowadays beautiful colored light frills adorn the houses.
Colorful rangoli and diya decoration
I still remember those days when we used to go to the roof of our house to hang decoration lights for Diwali, tediously tying the wires neatly with tape, changing fused bulbs. After the hard work, when the bulbs would glow beautifully from the roof top, we had a great sense of accomplishment.
On the night of Diwali, people burn firecrackers. After rainy season, there are lots of insects everywhere, and they are killed by the smoke of firecrackers and oil lamps. Lighting lamps on new moon night results in subservience of darkness by light. Sound and light of firecrackers kill the gloomy atmosphere and gives rise to happiness and gay.
People light up their premises during Diwali
People visit each other’s houses and exchange gifts and pleasantries. Sweets, and many other delicacies are prepared. Dry fruits and nuts are also bought and gifted to each other, especially in northern India. Since Diwali falls in autumn, with winters fast approaching, these nuts are then savoured during chilly days of winters. I always like to take almond soup which gives warmth to the body, and is very nutritious.
This time I have made moong ki dal ki barfi (green lentil cake) for diwali. Watch the video to see this easy to make recipe –
In many communities Diwali marks the commencement of Hindu new year. Many businessmen open their new account books on this day.
In my childhood I remember people would only burn earthen lamps, and use of decorative electric lights were not prevalent. In the same way there were not too many varieties of firecrackers. We used to celebrate Diwali in a very simple way. But now with rise of consumerism, people go overboard with firecrackers and lights. This harms the environment. Schools have now started making children aware of harmful effects of firecrackers.
I feel too much of anything is never good. Festivals are occasions to celebrate, but we should remember to remain rooted. Festivities give us opportunity to wind down, enjoy, socialize, as well as reflect.
Which is your favorite festival, and how do you celebrate it?