Words by Aishwarya Johnson Jogul, Travel and Culture Print Editor
Dipavali or Diwali is the largely celebrated and important festival in India. A time to celebrate the triumph of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance and good over evil. The five days of Diwali are marked by prayer, feasts, fireworks, family gatherings, and charitable giving.
Diwali is so widely celebrated and it is an important religious festival for Hindus, but is also observed among Jains, Sikhs, and Buddhists, it has no single origin story. While each religion has its own historical narrative behind the holiday, they all ultimately represent the victory of good over evil.
The festival of lights, Diwali, celebrated in India is a vibrant expression of devotion and joy with distinct regional variations; however, broadly it can be said that there are two forms of Diwali on the basis of religion, Jaina Diwali and Brahmanical Diwali.
Different religions celebrate Diwali for different reasons, The Hindus celebrate the end of vanvas and the homecoming of Lord Ram and Maa Sita after their 14-year exile. In some parts of India, the day Maa Durga destroyed a demon called Mahisha is also celebrated as Diwali as it marks the triumph of good over evil. The Sikhs the freedom of their 6th Guru Hargobind Singh. The foundation stone of the Golden Temple at Amritsar, the most holy place in the Sikh world, was laid on Diwali in 1577. While the Jains celebrate Moksha of Lord Mahavira.
What is Diwali?
In Vedic scriptures (Hindu Scriptures) Diwali is mentioned as Padma Purana, which is celebrated after the harvest season according to the Hindu calendar. The festival is observed for five days, the first day of celebration is known as Dhanteras. Millions of people in India buy jewelleries and precious stones on this day as this day is believed to be an auspicious one to buy gold and gems. The second day of Diwali is called Narak Chaturdasi, the 14th lunar day. Homes light 14 diyas to ward off evil. The third day is when Diwali is actually celebrated with family and 21 diyas are lit. The entire house is lit with beautiful diyas and the families get together for food and to worship the gods. The commercial families usually set up a prayer gathering at their businesses such as factories and shops to dedicate their business to Maa Laxmi. On the 4th day, people celebrate Govardhan pooja, in remembrance of Lord Krishna who, in mythic tales, lifted Govardhan Hill to shelter the people in Vrindavan from heavy rain. The celebration ends with observing Bhai Dooj on the 5th day. Bhai Dooj is a festival which celebrates the bond and love between brother and sister.
The Following are the main things Indians do after and on the day of festival:
Unlike other Indian festivals there is no fasting on Diwali. Every State of India has its own regional speciality for Diwali. Mouth-watering snacks could include samosas, bhajis, aloo tikki (griddle-cooked potato patties) and channa bhatura (spiced chickpeas and puffed bread). Mithai (sweets) are the stars of Diwali. They’re made with dairy produce, which has religious significance, and offered to both gods and guests. Chakli, peda, barfi, and laddoo are common during celebrations. Almost all sweets are made with broken pieces of dry fruits.
The Indians usually clean their entire house and purify it with the holy water of Ganga or the nearest holy river. Commercial families clean their shops, offices and factories every year during Diwali as it is believed that Maa Laxmi enters in clean places!
The traditional families shop for the entire household from old to young. The women in the family have a day out shopping for themselves. Sarees, Lehenga Cholis and Chudidars are the traditional women’s clothes for Diwali. The Men are usually spotted in Kurta Pyjamas. While at times in dhotis! But women always steal the limelight.
Rangolis are a thing during Diwali. During the five days of celebration, people decorate their home with rangoli, a colourful artwork made with rice powder. Rangoli powder comes in many colours and the porch of one’s home is decorated with beautiful designs. It is another way to ring in the festive spirit. The entire house is lit up in fairy lights and beautiful floral decoration along with diyas all over the house.
It is a tradition for families to exchange gifts during Diwali. The festival is one time in the year when families from all parts of the world reunite. Close and extended families pay visits at one another’s place for hours of banter, card playing, and gifts!
And then there are different ways how different states of India Celebrate Diwali, following are few of the examples.
Stage Shows are set up all across India which are known as Ram Lila. While if you wanna watch the best stage show ever head straight to Delhi! Ram Lila performances held at the Ram Leela Maidan, Subhas Maidan and Red Fort are a must watch and enjoyed by locals and visitors from different states.
The people of Orissa celebrate Diwali by erecting tall bamboo poles in front of their homes. A pot is tied to the top of bamboo with a lamp lit inside it. They believe that lighting the dark street in such a way will help dead ancestors find their way to heaven.
The Kumaoni celebrate Diwali by painting the thresholds of their houses red. They do so with Geru – the filtered red soil and rice solution to paint the doorsteps. This unique form of art is called Aipan and is a way for the locals to welcome Goddess Lakshmi into their homes.
The Bengalis celebrate Diwali with fun and frolic which to them means, a game of cards, alcohol and a grand spread that consists of fish, meats, sweets and a lot more. What truly sets the Bengali celebration apart is the lighting up of the Howrah Bridge. Thus bringing true meaning to the ‘Festival of Lights’.
The people of Varanasi celebrate Diwali by lighting up all the ghats in the town with diyas. The whole city resounds with chants of mantras to Goddess Lakshmi to add a spiritual touch to the celebrations. With the entire city lit up with diyas, this is one of the most serene places to celebrate Diwali in India.
The Goans celebrate Diwali as Narka Chaturdas by burning effigies of the demon Narakasura (made of paper and filled with hay). This is followed by a visit to a local temple and a grand feast where the rich and poor dine together. Pick a Goa tour Package that lets you experience this unique celebration in all its glory.
Diwali is one festival that the entire India celebrates with an unbiased spirit and oneness! While coronavirus had made it a little bitter last year by casting its shadow of darkness, the celebration this year is going to be gigantic as the belief that, eventually, light will triumph over darkness has begun!