As India prepares to celebrate Diwali, the biggest and the brightest festival in the country, this Sunday, many people abroad also follow the trend. As the festivities have already begun, here is why the festival is considered auspicious and the most important.
“We celebrate Diwali with utmost enthusiasm as compared to other Indian festivals. Lights, colours, flowers, rangolis (floor art), crackers, traditional sweets, friends, family and get togethers; just thinking about it is fun. I love it also because it marks the arrival of winter,” says Shruti Bansal, resident of the Indian capital New Delhi.
Diwali, or Deepavali as it is popularly known in India, is a Hindu festival celebrated every year in autumn across the nation. It is considered a very auspicious occasion and is an official holiday not only in India but also in Fiji, Guyana, Pakistan, Malaysia, Mauritius, Myanmar, Nepal, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago.
Spiritually, it signifies the victory of light over darkness and of good over evil. Hindus across the world celebrate Diwali to celebrate the homecoming of Lord Rama, his wife Sita and his brother Lakshmana, after 14 years in exile. To honour the return and illuminate their path, villagers had then lit up diyas (earthen lamps) to welcome them and since then every year, people follow the same.
The celebrations include decorating homes, temples, offices and residential societies with lights, diyas, flowers and rangolis; wearing new clothes and participating in family prayers. Furthermore, Lakshmi – the goddess of wealth and prosperity – is also worshipped on this day.
After the prayers, from little children to the elders, everyone enjoys fireworks, following a family feast and an exchange of gifts. However, the festival is not only a day-long affair, the Diwali festivities extend over a five-day period.
Festivities start with Dhanteras, where people worship Lakshmi, followed by Naraka Chaturdasi. According to Hinduism, demon Narakasura was killed on this day by Lord Krishna. Diwali is celebrated on the third day and then Padva is observed the next day dedicated to the husband-wife relationship and the festivities end with Bhai Dooj, dedicated to the sister-brother bond, on the fifth day.
On the day when Hindus celebrate Diwali, the Sikh community in India celebrates Bandi Chhor Divas to mark the release of Guru Hargobind from prison.
While in the eastern regions, people worship goddess Kali instead of Lakshmi and call the festival Kali Puja, in other regions, Govardhan Puja is celebrated with hundreds of different cuisines prepared and offered to Lord Krishna.
Not only in India, but Diwali is now a very popular festival in foreign nations as well. “Many people have started celebrating the festival. They burst crackers and also decorate their houses. We have some Pakistani and Indian friends here and we celebrate the festival with them. Though we miss the grand celebrations in India,” says Neil Sethi, a person of Indian origin in France.
Events to celebrate Diwali will also be organised in the UK, as many cities across the country are hosting programmes including Indian dances, music, theatre and exhibitions.
Happy Diwali soldiers
Indian PM Narendra Modi initiated the ‘Sandesh2Soldiers’ (message for soldiers) campaign for people to send Diwali wishes to the Indian army men. A lot of people are happily participating in the initiative to wish their protectors a happy Diwali and express their warm wishes through Twitter.
“I sent my #Sandesh2Soldiers. You could also do the same. Your wishes will certainly make our forces very happy. This Diwali, let us remember our courageous armed forces who constantly protect our nation. Jai Hind. When 125 crore people stand with soldiers, their power increases by 125 crore times,” the PM tweeted.
Media India Group wishes the soldiers and every one of you out there in the world a bright, safe and happy Deepavali!