DIWALI VARIATIONS AROUND THE GLOBE
Although majority of the Hindu population celebrate Diwali in a similar manner, in countries such as India, Britain, Australia and North America, Hindus in other parts of the world, have slightly different traditions. For instance, in the villages of Punjab, cattle are adorned and worshipped by farmers, as they are the main source of income. In the southern areas, cows are offered special veneration, as they are believed to be the incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi and the day after Diwali is a celebration called Tikka. On this day, sisters place an auspicious mark on the forehead of their brother, with saffron paste and grains of rice to ward off evil and harm to the brother.
In Nepal, Diwali is known as Tihar and is celebrated for five days. Each day has its own significance; the first is dedicated to cows, when rice is cooked and fed to them, believing that Lakshmi comes to cows. The second day is for dogs as the Vahana (vehicle) of Bhairava (deity pertaining to Nepal). Preparation of delicious food especially meant for the dog is a typical characteristic of the day. The entire surrounding is illuminated with lights and lamps and some of the specialty items are prepared to mark the third day of the festival. The fourth day is dedicated to Yama, the Hindu God of Death, and prayed to for long life. The final day is Bhhaya Dooj, dedicated to brothers who are wished by their sisters for prosperity.
Diwali in Mauritius is an age-old tradition. Besides celebrating the victory of good over evil and light over darkness, the little flickering lights also symbolize the beginning of summer. The main day of festivities is seen as a particularly auspicious day for merchants to make up their accounts and balances for the previous year, to go unburdened into the next.
Sri Lanka is related to the epic of Ramayan, so Diwali holds a special importance for their people. The festival is marked by illumination, making of enamel toys and figures out of crystal sugar popularly known as Misiri.
The land of the rising sun, Japan, also celebrates Diwali as the day that awards happiness, progress, prosperity and longevity in life. The festival here is celebrated in a unique way; the people go out into the orchards and gardens and hang paper-made lanterns on the branches of trees. Dance and music continue throughout the night and putting on new clothes, broom cleaning of the house and going out for boating are also some other related activities of the festival of Diwali. The places of worship are decorated with beautiful wallpapers to bring about a festive mood and the propitious related beliefs.
Thailand hosts Diwali under the name of ‘Lam Kriyongh’ which takes place during the months of October and November. The festival resembles the observance of Diwali in India. Diyas created using banana leaves are lit with candles and incense; a coin is placed upon to set afloat on a river, which creates a stunning view on the water. The Diwali festival is not an extravagant affair but people do tend to greet each other and wish them happy returns of the day and the distribution of sweets is a common practice on the day of Diwali also.
In Trinidad and Tobago, Diwali has a distinctive flavour in the Caribbean island nation. Although it is a Hindu festival, in the island’s multicultural and multi-religious society, it is a national holiday observed by people of all denominations. The Hindu community observe two stories of the origin of Diwali, and leading up to the festival they are acted out in full costume all over Trinidad in open theatres in villages. Employees and even government ministers dress in East Indian garb. The climax of Diwali however, is the lighting of diyas after sundown, in yards, open spaces, staircases, roundabouts and porches. Diyas are lit by the thousands. They are usually placed on bamboo stalks bent into fantastic shapes and designs.
The tradition of wearing new clothes for the people of Guyana is especially significant on Diwali. They believe that wearing new clothes symbolize healthy souls in healthy bodies. Cleaning of their homes and keeping them well illuminated from within and out is a practice meant to illuminate the road for the Goddess Lakshmi to find their home, as the night of Diwali is regarded as the darkest night of the year.