The Fes­ti­val of Lights BE­YOND BOUND­ARIES

SHE Canada - - LETTERS TO THE EDITOR - By Poonam Chauhan

Di­wali is the largest and most sig­nif­i­cant Hindu fes­ti­val cel­e­brated all around the world. It is col­lo­qui­ally known as “the fes­ti­val of lights” as the com­mon prac­tice is light­ing small oil lamps (called diyas) and plac­ing them around the home, court­yards, and ev­ery­where in be­tween. In ur­ban ar­eas par­tic­u­larly, diyas are sub­sti­tuted with can­dles and amongst the nouveau riche or metropoli­tan ar­eas, neon lights are used in place of diyas.

In var­i­ous parts of the world Di­wali is cel­e­brated in slightly dif­fer­ent styles and for dif­fer­ing rea­sons. In North­ern In­dia and for the ma­jor­ity else­where, Di­wali cel­e­brates the re­turn of Lord Rama af­ter his four­teen years of ex­ile to Ay­o­d­hya, af­ter the de­feat of Ra­vana and his sub­se­quent coro­na­tion as King. Whilst in Gu­jarat, the fes­ti­val pri­mar­ily hon­ours the God­dess of wealth, Lak­shmi, and cel­e­brates wealth and good pros­per­ity. In Nepal they be­lieve a unique adap­tion of the tra­di­tional story and deem Di­wali to sur­round com­mem­o­rat­ing the vic­tory of Lord Kr­ishna over the de­mon king Narakaa­sura. How­ever, in Ben­gal, Di­wali is as­so­ci­ated with the god­dess Kali.

The word Di­wali stems from the night of Rama’s re­turn, the vil­lage’s peo­ple lit diyas to help him find his way back from the for­est where he was ex­iled. Gen­er­ally, most Hin­dus celebrate Di­wali in a sim­i­lar way; peo­ple tend to start the new busi­ness year on Di­wali and pray to the god­dess of wealth for a suc­cess­ful and pros­per­ous year. Diyas are lit to help Lak­shmi find her way into peo­ple’s homes; the light­ing of diyas is a way of pay­ing re­spect to god for the at­tain­ment and abun­dance of peace, love, wealth, health, knowl­edge and pros­per­ity. Peo­ple also spring-clean their homes and celebrate the aus­pi­cious day by wear­ing new clothes and jew­ellery. En­trances of homes are adorned with tra­di­tional mo­tifs, which are cre­ated with the use of colour­ful, vivid, pigmented pow­der called ran­goli. The ma­jor­ity at­tend the Mandir, the Hindu tem­ple, for bless­ings and ex­change gifts with their loved ones. Gifts typ­i­cally em­body sweets and dried fruit, new clothes and jew­ellery. Fam­i­lies ha­bit­u­ally unite in or­der to pre­pare and en­joy a fes­tive meal to­gether. The bliss­ful day comes to an end with im­mense fire­work dis­plays and sparklers.

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