It is that time of the year for our Hindu friends to celebrate one of their most well-known festivals, Diwali, which translates to "festival of lights" and the time for renewal of life. It is not only celebrated in India but anywhere in the world where Hindu communities are present. Diwali is an official holiday not only in India but also in Malaysia, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Nepal, Mauritius, Fiji, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago and also in Guyana.
Diwali is a very colorful festival, where homes and other places are decorated with multi-colored lanterns and lit with candles, colored lights and oil lamps or "diyas." Diwali is a Hindu term that translates to "rows of lighted lamps." Despite it being an age-old cultural celebration, you can still see the disparity in its observation. In the rural areas of India, most people will be using the traditional oil lamps. In the urban areas, most people will be using candles as substitute for the lamps. The nouveau-riche on the other hand will be using neon lights.
The usual Diwali celebration, which lasts for five days, see people cleaning their homes, buying and wearing new and colorful clothes (nothing black here), exchanging dried fruits and sweets and having festive meals and decorating houses, buildings, courtyards, porches, walls and even rooftops with lights and lanterns. Large firework displays are also part of the Diwali celebration. People may also use water and fragrant oils when washing themselves.
The celebration of Diwali today, while still following tradition, has been upgraded, at least in some sections of society. In Bollywood for example, it is a time to throw expensive and lavish parties. Actor Aamir throws an annual party for this time of the year, with a who's who guest list and superb home-cooked dishes and long card sessions. Jaya Bachchan does the same, personally preparing and supervising their annual Diwali celebration. Many more Bollywood celebrities try to outdo each other when it comes to their Diwali parties.
Meaning and significance
Diwali is celebrated on different dates in various regions because of the difference in the translation of the lunar calendar. Diwali has a different significance to many people across the continent. In Bengal, Diwali is celebrated in relation to Kali, the goddess of empowerment. In Gujarat on the other hand, Diwali is a festival to honor Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. The lights are placed by people to guide her into their homes. It is a celebration of the homecoming and coronation of Rama after he defeated Ravana, according to the interpretation of the people in North India. Everywhere else, Diwali means the renewal of life, the start of the sowing season and the approach of winter.
So what do you do when you want to join the Diwali celebration? Make sure you take heed of the hazards of using firecrackers. Be positive, share the happiness and embrace prosperity. Socialize. Think healthy and be a vegetarian, even for this day only. Since it is a time to buy new things, make sure that you buy only what you can afford.
To our Hindu brothers and sisters, Happy Diwali. Dīpāvalī kī hārdika śubhakāmanā'ēṁ!