Deepavali is the festival of Lights. The word ‘Deepavali’ is made up of two simple words. ‘Deepa’ means light and ‘Avali’ means a row. Hence ‘Deepavali’ means a row of lights. This is perhaps the most well-known of the Indian festivals. It is celebrated throughout India as well as in Indian communities around the world.
This festival usually falls around late October. It is common practice to light small oil lamps (called diyas) and place them around the home, in courtyards, verandahs, and gardens, as well as on roof-tops and outer walls. In urban areas candles are substituted for diyas; and among the nouveau riche, neon lights are made to substitute for candles. The celebration of the festival is invariably accompanied by the exchange of sweets and the explosion of fireworks.
India is rich in ethnic and cultural backgrounds so it comes as no surprise that Diwali signifies many different things to people across the country. In north India, Diwali celebrates Rama’s homecoming, that is his return to Ayodhya after the defeat of Ravana and his coronation as king; in Gujarat, the festival honors Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth; and in Bengal, it is associated with the goddess Kali. Everywhere, it signifies the renewal of life, and accordingly it is common to wear new clothes on the day of the festival. Fireworks and firecrackers go off during Deepavali and symbolize the use of fiery weapons used during the war that Krishna waged against the demon.
Some of the popular sweets are halwa, burfi and laddu. Hindus love eating spicy food and for non-vegetarians they indulge in favorites like chicken tandoori, prawn sambal and fish head curry. In homes of Hindus who are vegetarians popular dishes like thosais, idlis and naans are prepared. Most devout Hindus tend to be vegetarians.
What I like most about Deepavali is how people put aside their differences for this special occasion and the mood is festive and colorful. I was first introduced to the festival of lights when we lived in Singapore. It’s a national holiday there and Little India is decked out in all its glory with massive displays of lights, colorful stalls and a sense of happiness everywhere you go. As I said in an earlier post Sept.4), Indian’s are very hospitable and they enjoy sharing their food with others.