Tips for Thought

What is Diwali?

Diwali, revered as the Festival of Lights, holds a significant place in the hearts of millions around the globe. Celebrated primarily by Hindus, Sikhs, and Jains, the festival spans five days, each day having its own unique tradition and significance. Diwali marks the triumph of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance, reflecting the profound philosophical depth of Indian traditions. This year, Diwali falls on November 12, and the vibrant celebrations are anticipated to be grander than ever. Let’s talk about the rich history of Diwali, its traditional and contemporary celebrations, and offers insights for those looking to immerse themselves in the festivities.

Apart from its religious significance, Diwali has also become a cultural spectacle that attracts participation from beyond the Indian diaspora. The inclusivity of the celebration shows a blend of traditional and modern elements, making it a rich, multicultural event.

What is its history?

The roots of Diwali trace back to ancient India, where it is believed to mark the return of Lord Rama to Ayodhya after defeating the demon king Ravana. Over centuries, the festival has woven itself into the social and cultural fabric of India and many other countries, symbolizing different historical and spiritual events. For Sikhs, it commemorates the release of Guru Hargobind Singh from prison, while Jains celebrate Lord Mahavira’s attainment of moksha.

Also, the diverse ways in which Diwali is celebrated across different regions and communities illustrate the pluralistic essence of this festival. The stories and customs associated with Diwali have evolved over time, incorporating various local traditions and practices.

How is it celebrated?

Diwali is a carnival of lights, where homes, streets, and temples are adorned with clay lamps, candles, and decorative lights. The festival kicks off with Dhanteras, dedicated to wealth and prosperity. The subsequent days celebrate various deities and historical events, culminating in Bhai Dooj, celebrating the bond between brothers and sisters.

Besides household and community celebrations, many regions host grand Diwali parades, showcasing traditional dance, music, and art. The exchange of gifts and sweets, a tradition symbolic of sharing joy and prosperity, further fosters a sense of community and goodwill during this festive period.

  • Homes are cleaned and decorated with rangoli (colorful designs made on the floor), diyas (clay lamps), and lights.
  • A hallmark of Diwali, fireworks light up the sky, representing the victory of light.
  • Traditional Indian sweets and savory dishes are prepared and shared among family and friends.
  • People visit temples, attend community events, and partake in dances and music.

What are popular activities during the festival of lights?

In recent years, the emphasis on eco-friendly celebrations has grown. Many now opt for electric lights and eco-friendly decorations, minimizing the use of fireworks to reduce pollution. Moreover, the trend of ‘Green Diwali’ encourages the celebration of the festival in a more sustainable and environmentally conscious manner. Digital platforms also partake in the celebration by hosting virtual Diwali events, allowing people to connect and celebrate together, especially pertinent in the recent times of social distancing.

  • Embrace the Tradition: Participate in community events, try traditional attire, and engage in the rituals to experience Diwali fully.
  • Eco-Friendly Celebrations: Opt for eco-friendly decorations and fireworks or attend community firework displays.
  • Safety First: Ensure safety while lighting fireworks, and supervise children at all times.
  • Exploration: Utilize this time to explore and learn about the rich tapestry of Indian culture and traditions.
  • Giving Back: Diwali is also a time of charity and giving, consider contributing to a cause or volunteering in community services.

How is Diwali celebrated worldwide?

Diwali is celebrated with great fervor in many countries with significant Indian diaspora including the US, UK, Canada, Australia, and the UAE. Additionally, local governments and communities often organize Diwali-themed events, promoting cross-cultural understanding and appreciation.

What are some traditional Diwali dishes?

Some traditional dishes include samosas, jalebis, and various flavored curries. Additionally, sweets such as gulab jamun, barfi, and ladoo are quintessential to the Diwali culinary experience.

How can one participate in Diwali celebrations?

Attend local Diwali events, visit Indian temples, and share sweets with neighbors and friends. Engaging in traditional craft-making such as creating rangoli or lighting diyas can also enhance the experiential understanding of the festival.

What are the impacts of Diwali on local economies?

The economic activity surges as people shop for decorations, gifts, and sweets, significantly benefiting local businesses and artisans. Additionally, the influx of tourists and visitors during this period further stimulates economic growth, especially in regions known for grand Diwali celebrations.

Why is the cow worshipped on the third day of Diwali?

The cow is revered as a symbol of non-violence and as the motherly figure providing sustenance, reflecting the harmonious co-existence of humans and nature in Indian philosophy. This ritual underscores the importance of gratitude and respectful coexistence, principles central to the ethos of Diwali.

Is there a book about Diwali?

Diwali by Hannah Eliot is a non-fiction book that explains the history, traditions, and significance of Diwali in a clear and concise way. It is an excellent resource for those looking to delve deeper into the cultural and historical aspects of this illustrious festival.

What are some modern adaptations seen in Diwali celebrations?

With the advent of technology and globalization, modern renditions of Diwali celebrations have emerged. Virtual gatherings, digital gift exchanges, and online Diwali-themed games and contests are some of the contemporary adaptations that allow people to celebrate and connect during the Festival of Lights, transcending physical distances.

Takeaway

Diwali’s essence of spreading light and joy transcends geographical and cultural boundaries, making it a universally cherished festival. As preparations for Diwali 2023 commence, the anticipation of a grand celebration filled with color, laughter, and love is in the air, reminding us of the enduring power of hope and the joy of community. The pervasive spirit of Diwali, embodying joy, kinship, and the essence of light, continues to echo deeply with individuals worldwide. As the preparations intensify, the universal values encapsulated in this ancient festival are a beautiful reminder of the cooperative human spirit and the continuous quest for knowledge and goodness.