As a regular contributor to this blog, I will be sharing my personal experiences with you now. Today I have written about my favorite festival and its significance. I also intend to educate ex-pats and people overseas about our culture and heritage through my writing. So here's a glimpse of what Diwali means to me.....
We’ve all heard a lot of brouhaha over Indian festivals in international magazines & a lot of hype is created around Indian culture & heritage. In my opinion, all this causes information being bombarded in the minds of ex-pats, foreigners & people visiting India. It’s better to make the information simple & easily available to them & allow them to experience the culture more than just read it, in order to appreciate it.
Taking the thought forward, I’ve decided to write a simple, yet informative blog on my favorite festival of the year, in order to provide a glimpse of our culture to people overseas & have them appreciate it, experience it & enjoy it as much as I do. This blog provides a detailed understanding of my favorite festival, mainly meant for ex-pats & foreigners, giving them a slice of our culture & heritage.
Let’s begin with the most famous festival of Hindus i.e. Diwali! To start with it's my favorite festival of the year & I look forward to it at the age of 40, just like the way I did when I was 10 years old, living in Coles Park, in my first home in Bangalore. The spiritual significance of Diwali is celebrated by Hindus, Jains, Sikhs & Newar Buddhists to mark different historical events and stories, but they all symbolize the victory of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, good over evil, hope over despair. Diwali is the Indian festival that brings a series of festivals with it. The people that celebrate it, put on new apparel, and participate in the various activities that are related to Diwali celebrations. Diyas, crackers, colorful rangolis, “mithais”,” Lakshmi pooja”, “aarti” & late-night “taash patti” marks the celebrations of Diwali. People organize social gatherings at home to exchange greetings and celebrate with their loved ones.
The first day of this festival begins with ‘Dhanteras’. The second day of Diwali is ‘Chhoti Diwali’, followed by the third day which is also called ‘Badi Diwali’. People perform Lakshmi Puja (worship of divine Goddess Lakshmi) on this day and offer prayers to her to bless them with wealth and prosperity. The fifth day of the Diwali is “Bhai Dooj”, the time to honor the brother-sister relationship. Now let’s delve into the significance & traditions of Diwali, as per the various days of the festival.
Diwali is the day when Ram returned to Ayodhya following 14 years of exile after defeating the demon king Ravana who abducted Sita, wife of Ram. People of Ayodhya were absolutely ecstatic at the homecoming of Ram and rejoiced by lighting up their houses to Hindus, darkness represents ignorance, and light is a metaphor for knowledge. Therefore, lighting a lamp symbolizes the destruction, through knowledge, of all negative forces- wickedness, violence, lust, anger, envy, greed, bigotry, fear, injustice, oppression and suffering, etc. This is the historical significance of the festival, but Indians know how to live it up on every occasion! Let’s have a look at how they do it!
Diwali starts with pooja preparations i.e. Lakshmi Puja which is performed in the evening. Cleaning of the house is imperative before beginning the puja. Homes are decorated with diyas, candles & rangolis. The lighting of the diyas is the most awaited part for everyone at home, right from the kids to the adults – we all can’t wait to decorate the entire house with lights! I personally paint diyas as a hobby & pack them as gifts & distribute them to close friends. Coming to the Pooja, some of the traditional items are required for the Lakshmi Puja. Some of the things we include in the thali are – Idols of Lakshmi-Ganesh, vermillion, “kalash”, few grains of rice, betel leaves and betel nuts, incense sticks, camphor, flowers, fruits & sweets. Moving onto the festivities after prayer, which is the time most awaited by the younger ones! Usually, our friends & family get together & burst crackers with great bonhomie!
Happiness begins at home & all festivities need to start from here. Most homes are decorated with colorful “rangoli” designs made by the womenfolk, in addition to “diyas” & candles. It’s a popular way of illuminating the home. They are placed on the windowsill, doorstep, staircase, and lobby, on the occasion. At home we all fight for our share of decorating the house with lamps, considering the fact that it’s such a wonderful feeling to add light to your home! My nieces can’t wait to get their hands on the “diyas”!
According to me, a home can’t be Diwali ready, until it’s decorated with “Torans” (wall hangings). It’s the most astounding decoration that adds class to your home, in addition to the standard flowers which make for great embellishments. Spread the aroma of flowers in your home, by hanging garlands made of marigold, lilies, rose, jasmine, or exotic flowers like orchid and carnations. This mostly sums up the occasion until the main day of Diwali. We now move onto the few days after that that are also significant to us.
So the order of a Diwali celebration is normally such i.e. pooja followed by dinner, fireworks & playing cards. All of this depends on the budget & spending capacity of each household in India! It’s the symbol of light & prosperity to the homes of the Hindus. India loves to celebrate by being heard more than seen! In some families, we wind up the celebration with “taash patti” (Playing cards) at home late past midnight. Some fanatics also end up gambling & end up losing or winning big bucks! One can also play cards without gambling as well. Rummy is a popular game of cards played here, usually with money.
The fifth day of the five-day festival is especially dedicated to honoring the unique bond between brother and sister, known as “Bhai Dooj”. It’s popular in different regions in north India. This tradition is performed with an “aarti”, followed by a “tilak” on the forehead & exchange of gifts. Personally, it’s my favorite tradition, as it’s a deeply rooted symbol of my bond with my brother & our lifetime relationship with each other!
This pretty much sums up the festival for a complete stranger to India’s culture & heritage. In fact, there are many more ways in which people celebrate, but I’ve chosen to highlight the most common way of doing it here! My intention is to familiarize every person overseas, visiting India, or ex-pats that are curious to know about us & are looking for some
information on it, or even a regular reader of my blog with our heritage. If you happen to chance upon this blog & have any questions, comments, or feedback, I’ll be happy to hear from you. Please mail me on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Until then, I wish you love, happiness, and laughter! warm wishes, Sarika Tainwala
About the Author
Sarika Tainwala is a corporate marketing professional with 6+ years of work experience in Client Servicing, Business Development, and content writing with Imagic Creatives Pvt Ltd, Think IMC, Aegis BPO, and Air Deccan airlines among others. Academically she’s studied – Executive General Management Program (EGMP), IIM, B, Six months of Management Development Program-(YPP) from IIM, K, PGDMM, St. Joseph College of Administration, Bangalore, B.Com- Mount Carmel College, Bangalore.
She’s also a voice-over artist and loves to gym and watches movies. She’s a management professional who turned into a writer and loves reading the romance genre and Indian authors. She aspires to release her own novel someday.