Diwali, the festival of lights is an Indian religious occasion celebrated through the length and breadth of the country. The festival comes with a splash of colours and a vibrant array of lights. The festival derives its name from two words – avail and deepa when, put together, means a row of lightened clay clamps. In Diwali people light candles, diyas (earthen lamps), colourful lamps outside their homes. Diwali, the celebration of lights is performed to illuminate the inner soul and to protect it from darkness. The beautiful celebration of lights, colours and righteousness celebrated in India over centuries have emerged as a national festival. The auspicious day of Diwali transcends religious and cultural boundaries and forms the essence of the country’s cultural unity and fraternity.
The charm of Deepavali has all the grandeur and dazzle. It enlightens not the streets and houses but also, our minds. The thirteenth/ fourteenth day in the darkest month of Hindu calendar, Kartika (October-November) marks the festival of Diwali. The celebration of lights in the darkest days is deeply embedded in spirituality. It signifies the strength of inner light and knowledge against the forces of evil. According to the Hindu religious understanding, Hindus are expected to enlighten themselves with love, affection, knowledge and truth. The lightened diyas remind us of the power in every person to rekindle light in the lives of many. It gives us the strength to fight against evil and to distance ourselves from the dual forces of ignorance and falsehood.
Myths and stories:
The deepavali celebrates the victory of truth over deception and teachery. Like other Indian festivals, Diwali too comes with a package of exciting mythological stories. According to one legend Diwali marks the return of lord ram to Ayodhya after his 14 years of exile on defeating the evil forces of Ravana. Another tradition links the festive occasion to Krishna (an avatar of lord Vishnu) killing the demon Narakasura. While traders and merchants offer their prayers to the goddess Saraswati (goddess of learning and music) and Lord Kuber (god of booking and accounts), in Gujarat diwali marks the beginning of new year. The legendary tales associated with the festival varies from region to region. For the Jains, Diwali is observed as Mahavira Nirvana Divas. The Sikhs celebrate Diwali as an auspicious day when Guru Gobind Singh after being released from Gwalior fort prison travelled to the Golden Temple. They call the day Bandi Chorr Diwas. In the state of West Bengal, the day after Diwali is dedicated to the worship of goddess kali, who is hailed as the devine embodiment of shakti.
The religious occasion of Diwali calls for an elaborate puja and offerings made to Lakshmi and Ganesh. The devotees decorate their homes with flowers and lights to welcome the god and goddess of prosperity to their homes. Banana leaves are put on kalash (bronze pots) with vermillion painted swastika. They are placed at the entrance of the house. The devotees often adorn the idols with gold jewellery online. Smearing turmeric and pouting milk on the idol are an important part of the ritual. According to the beliefs the worship of goddess Lakshmi brings prosperity and harmony in family.
A grand feast is prepared to match the celebrations of the day. Kheer, malpoa, besan ke ladoo, jalebi and rabri are served as deserts. Lassi and thandai (sweetened milk) constitute the main beverage. In certain parts of the country people do not eat non vegetarian food on this day, while mainly in the eastern part of the country, fish and mutton constitute a compulsion as they are considered to bring good luck. Intricate geometric patterns are drawn with colours on the courtyard of the houses by women. These floor decorations called rangoli is an essential element of Diwali, without which, the celebration is never complete. Beautiful fairy lights, floating lamps adds a charm to the occasion. Silver idols of Ganesh and Saraswathi are used to decorate the homes.
The grand celebration calls for style and elegance. The festivity is known for all its glamour and colour. Shopping is mandatory. People shop the trendiest and the latest outfits during Diwali to set the mood right. Women dress in heavy embroidered sarees and lehengas complimented with matching jewellery. To keep the trend set, vibrant colours like maroon, red, emerald green, yellow, orange is the choice. It is essential to wear cotton outfits during the evening as bursting a diverse range of fire crackers is a ritual on this day. Silk and synthetic fabric can easily catch fire. For a breezy look, cape gowns and saree kurtas enhance the festive looks. To set the trend, printed brocade long kurtas complimented with slim fit pants is best as it redefines the ethnic look with a tinge of modernity. For men, a dark coloured kurta complimented with off-white pajama is the trend setter.