DI­WALI VARI­A­TIONS AROUND THE GLOBE

SHE Canada - - LETTERS TO THE EDITOR -

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.

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