Deepavali or Diwali as it is also called, is the festival of lights, the five day Indian festival is celebrated on the last day of the Hindu lunar calendar
Diwali falls around October and November. The date varies every year depending on the moon. In 2013 Diwali will begin on 3rd November.
Diwali is celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs, and Jains all over the world. It is considered the most important Hindu festival of the year. As there are many languages and sub-nationalities in India, there are many different regional festivals attached to Diwali. In Northern India, they celebrate the return of the exiled King Rama, restoring order and peace. In Southern India they commemorate Lord Krishna’s defeat of the evil demon-king Narakasura. The highlight for most local festivals, though, is the worship of the goddess of prosperity, Lakshimi.
A festival of lights
Food writer and author Teresa George describes how Diwali is celebrated in India – “‘Diwali’ is an abbreviation of the Sanskrit word Deepavali, which translates into ‘row of lamps' because of the clay lamps (diyas) which are filled with oil or ghee and lit at night during the festival period. As Diwali approaches, people clean their homes in anticipation of Lakshmi’s arrival. Large pots are decorated with marigold flowers and mango leaves. Traditional, vividly coloured motifs (rangolis) are drawn at the entrance of the homes to welcome Lakshmi. Love and affection is demonstrated by exchanging gifts, sweets and snacks between family and friends.”
Indulging one’s sweet tooth
According to Teresa, Diwali can also be called ‘festival of sweets’. As she mentions, “Weeks before the festival, kitchens are the gathering place for the young and old to prepare the mouth-watering, indulgent Diwali ‘methai’ – confectionery, dessert and snacks. The sweets are typically colourful, and rich in ghee and sugar to express happiness, prosperity and good luck.”
Celebrations in Australia
In Australia, many Hindus visit temples across the country and/or perform pooja at home. Traditional lamps are lit outside and inside the home. There is usually a big feast with as many as fifteen different vegetarian dishes on the table. Games such as the seashell game is played. As Teresa explains, “Everyone takes turns shaking a small bag of seashells and releasing the shells on the floor. You count the number of shells which are open. If it’s an odd number of open shells then the player will have good luck for the year. If it is an even number, the player is asked to repeat the round until an odd number is achieved.”