The Festival of Lights BEYOND BOUNDARIES
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.