India, a country with a hugely diverse population of about 1.2 billion people, and the world’s largest democracy witnesses a festival every autumn (in the northern hemisphere) called Diwali or Deepavali. This is one of the biggest festivals celebrated in India. Also known as the festival of lights, this is basically a festival of the Hindus. But if you are in India, you will be astonished to see the fact that most of the Indians, regardless of faith, celebrate this festival, have fun, light up their homes and offices, and enjoy the festive season.
India’s ritual calendar is jam-packed with festivals, rituals, and is extremely rich in traditions. This festival is called the festival of lights for the fact that houses are lit with rows of lamps and lights all night long, giving cities and towns a truly festive feeling. This festival is celebrated to mark the triumph of good over the evil. It’s an official holiday in the country and some other countries as well. It spiritually signifies the victory of light over darkness, good over evil, knowledge over ignorance, and hope over despair. The country sees one of the heaviest shopping traffic during this festive season.
This year, the country will be celebrating the festival from 18th to 20th October as per the Hindu calendar. The preparation for this festival starts months before time. This festival is considered to be lucky for inaugurating a new house, business or any sort of investment. The markets get filled with decorative lights, firecrackers, flowers and garlands and numerous other things that can help you decorate your living space and your apartment/building. Different Rangoli designs are made on the entrance and outside the puja (worship) halls using different colors, patterns, and textures.
During this festival, cities are decorated with lights falling from the top of the buildings, entrances with colorful flowers, the kitchen full of amazing and mouth-watering sweets and food items, a huge number of firecrackers and lots of joy and love all around. You will find a truly festive spirit across the country.
Diwali is basically of five days.
The first day is called as Dhanteras (pronounced as dhan-tei-rus). This day falls on the 13th lunar day of Krishna Paksha in the Hindu month of Kartik. People purchase gold, electronic items and make such investments. Husbands generally gift their wives jewelry, clothes and so on.
The second day is known as Choti Diwali (Choti means small). On this day, Lord Krishna made the world free from the fear of demon Narakasur. Women decorate their hands with henna designs and make rangolis.
The third day is called the Lakshmi Puja (or Badi Diwali). This is the main day of the five-day festival. On this day, we worship goddess Lakshmi and seek blessings, wealth, and prosperity. People wear new clothes, burn firecrackers, lit their home with diyas(earthen lamps), eat sweets and some amazing food and numerous other deities are performed across the country based on the region. It is believed that goddess Lakshmi roams the earth on the Diwali night. The females of the house, especially the mothers who work all long year are considered to embody a part of Lakshmi, the good fortune, and prosperity of the household. Relatives are invited, gifts are exchanged and a strong bond between the family members is established. Children in the families make the most important part of such festivals.
The fourth day is celebrated as Padwa and Govardhan Puja. On this day, the newly married daughters are invited to dinner along with their husbands. This accounts for a special day in the married life of couples. Lord Krishna is offered worship and in some places/regions, this marks the start of a new year as well.
The fifth day is called Bhai Duj or Bhaiya Dooji (Brothers’ day). This day celebrates the loving relationship of brothers and sisters. The day emphasizes the long relationship of the two souls as bro-sis. This day is somewhat similar to another festival in India known as Raksha Bandhan, where sisters tie a rakhi (a kind of bracelet) to protect them from all the evils of life. I will be taking about Raksha Bandhan in one my articles later this year in detail.
With all of these, the festival ends and so does a tough time comes for those who stay in boarding schools or away from family because, after almost a week of fun with families and the close ones, they have to go back to their schools or wherever they work/study. Following this festival, there is a huge concern for the environment as well. Nature is adversely affected because of burning firecrackers at an unimaginable amount across the country. This is the reason why every year more and more people have stopped burning firecrackers and the judicial system has started to ban the sale of firecrackers in states observing alarming rates of pollution. We as an individual need to be aware and we the youths need to stand up and take steps to protect the depleting mother nature.
Almost every country celebrates this festival. Every country has some population of Indians and so celebrating such festivals are mandatory, what do you think? I think this is a we can reach out to other people and let them know about our culture and who we are.
Time to talk something about me and the way I used to engage myself during this festival. Every year during the Diwali festive season, I used to put banana tree at the entrance as it is considered as most sacred leaf and it finds it usage in all Vedic rituals. Following this, I used to go for shopping, specially for the things required for the worship we offer to the goddess. It’s done in an enormous way at my place. A lot of work, busy weeks, renovating the house, workplace and a lot of work. But the greed to have the mouth-watering food used to keep me on my toes while at work. I have been celebrating this festival for the past 18 years with my family and loved ones. Unfortunately, I am in the USA this year and trust me this is the toughest time for me and my family as well. Some 8000 miles away from them, the festival is on the door and I miss them already. Well, this is life. You need to sacrifice certain things so that you can secure your future and henceforth your parents. They have worked all their life, on their toes to give their children a comfortable and a life that many people just dream about. It’s our turn to study hard and make them feel proud of them as our parents and the vice versa.
There are uncountable things I can share about India, its culture, the places, the people, the history but all in one article is no way possible. I was working on an article describing the beauty of one of the states and in the mean time, Zuzanna and me had a conversation which made me realize why shouldn’t I share about this festival first. International readers might not be aware of the integrity among the people of the country when it comes to celebrations (ignoring few exceptions). I hope you like what I have tried to convey in this article about this stupendously thrilling festival.
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See you next time with another story!