Diwali, "the festival of lights" derives its genesis from the Sanskrit word "Deepavali". Deepavali literally means line-up arrangement of display of lights/diya (earthen lamps). It connotes victory of brightness over darkness and good over evil.
According to the Hindu calendar, Diwali falls on the 15th day of the dark fortnight of the auspicious Hindu month of Karthik (October/November) which is the No Moon Day or Amavasya. As the legend goes, it was on this day Lord Rama, along with his wife Sita and brother Lakshmana returned to Ayodhya after fourteen years of exile. People of Ayodhya celebrated his return by lighting oil lamps along the way, to symbolize lighting the path of darkness. It commemorates the coronation of Lord Ram. From that day onwards people look forward to Diwali every year to illuminate their homes with arrays of oil lamps to dissipate the darkness of Amavasya. There are many other legendary epics and fables relating to Diwali.
Diwali is not only celebrated in India but also in many other countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, Mauritius, parts of Africa, Singapore, Nepal, South Africa, Thailand, U.A.E, Australia, U.S.A etc. Indian expatriates in these countries too look forward to celebrate Diwali with the same spirit and fervour. They consider themselves fortunate to rekindle and enliven the spirit of Diwali even though they are far away from their native home India.
In India, Diwali is celebrated in varied ways but definitely retaining the colourful and sparkling essence of the festival. It marks a feeling of strengthening social and family relationships. This is evident from the euphoric faces of each and every individual celebrating Diwali. The day begins with exchanging greetings, sweets and gifts. The Indian expatriates in most of the countries in their unique ways strive to add to the colour and joy in their homes. Friends and relatives visit each other to greet and share sweets and other delicacies.
In North India, Diwali is a five day festive filled affair ? Dhan Teras, Narak Chaturdashi, Diwali, Padiva (New Year) and Bhai Dhuj.
Dhan Teras falls on the 13th day of the first half of the lunar month. It is considered as the most auspicious day for gold, silver, property or household appliances. Most of the Indians especially from Gujarat or Western India observe this day. But today people of all communities celebrate Dhan Teras. Buying gold jewellery or silver coins brings great joy to any woman. Hence now it is not restricted to one community. If one visits the shopping malls or the Gold markets you will even the South Indian women thronging these malls purchasing gold. On Dhan Teras Day ‘All that glitters is definitely Gold?.
‘Rangoli’ By Jaya Ramesh, Oman
In South India people observe Naraka Chaturdashi as the most important day of the festival. The main festival is on the Amavasya evening with Lakshmi Pooja performed to seek the divine blessings of the Goddess of Wealth. Gold and silver articles or jewellery are placed before the deity. The most colourful and aesthetic aspect of this festival is Rangoli. Rangoli in different mediums like coloured marble powder, rice flour, coconut powder, pulses, fresh flowers etc are created and adorn the entrances or the floor of the hall in the houses. Creativity will be at its zenith on Diwali day as most women will artistically display their talent in different Rangoli patterns with their deft fingers and aesthetic skills. Even a simple geometrical design in white rangoli powder adds beauty to the house. Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder.
Oil lamps/diyas which are lit to brighten up homes come in different sizes and shapes. Readymade colourful designed diyas are available in plenty. Some prefer to design their own diyas. These days candles (tea lights) and floating candles are in vogue and you find them lit throughout the house. Diwali is incomplete without the sparkle of fireworks. But these are only prevalent in India. Since they are not available/not permitted in other countries it is definitely unheard of in these places. Indain expatriates do miss this ritual of bursting the fire crackers at dawn on Diwali Day. But the concept of bursting huge fireworks for five days is on the wane. People are becoming more and more aware and conscious about the dangers of bursting explosive firecrackers.
Diwali in any part of the world begins and ends with a sweet note exchanging sweets. One can enjoy a variety of sweets. There is a great display of sweets by all the sweetmeat vendors. The women folk too spend a lot of time preparing home-made sweets. Making sweets is an art by itself. So Diwali is an arty festival.
Apart from buying gold, bursting crackers, preparing sweets, people buy new clothes and wear them .In South India, people wake up very early in the morning have a traditional oil bath, wear new clothes and seek blessings from the Almighty and all elders at home.
Diwali marks the end of a list of Hindu festivals for the Gregorian year 2006. The lights and lamps signify the message behind it ? to spread the light of joy, hope and jubilation.
Author: Jaya Ramesh- Oman