Festival of Lights around the world
ONE of the most significant festivals in Indian culture, Diwali or Deepavali, also known as the Festival of Lights, sees millions attend firework displays, prayers and celebratory events across the world.
The festival is celebrated by Hindus for a variety of reasons, although the main theme is the triumph of light over darkness and good over evil.
Days before the celebration of Deepavali, the houses of the Hindus as well as their surrounding areas are cleaned from top to bottom.
The entrances of Hindu homes are decorated with the kolam, an intricate floral design on the ground which signifies religious believes.
The glow of lights, whether vilakku (oil lamps fashioned out of clay) or colourful electric bulbs, brighten up the abode of both rich and poor, signalling the coming festivities.
Deepavali is a five-day festival celebrated by millions of Hindus, Sikhs and Jains across the world. The festival, which coincides with the Hindu New Year, celebrates new beginnings and the triumph of good over evil and light over darkness.
The actual day of Diwali is traditionally celebrated on the festival’s third day, which this year falls on Oct 29.
While each faith has its own reason to celebrate the festival, one of the most popular stories told is the legend of Lord Rama and his wife Sita returning to their kingdom in northern India from exile after defeating the demon king Ravanna in the 15th century BC.
During Deepavali, families and friends share sweets and gifts and there is also a strong belief in giving food and goods to those in need. It is also traditional for homes to be cleaned and new clothes to be worn at the time of the festival.
The food most closely associated with the festival is Indian sweets, which come in a range of colours and flavours. The celebration, however, features various rich savoury and sweet dishes, and while eating out is popular, families will mostly prepare food at home for when guests arrive to exchange gifts and watch fireworks.
On Deepavali morning, many Hindu devotees awaken before sunrise for the ritual herbal oil bath. They put on new clothes. Then they go to the temples where prayers are held in accordance with the ceremonial rites.
The young members in the family will ask forgiveness from their parents before receiving their Deepavali money packets.
The rest of the day they distribute cakes and sweets to their neighbours and friends and many have “open house” for their non-Hindu friends, as is customary in Malaysia.
Most devout Hindus tend to be vegetarian, but that doesn’t change the fact that Deepavali is the day to savour the many delicious Indian delicacies such as sweetmeats, rice puddings and the ever-popular murukku. And of course, the delicious mutton and chicken curry that can be eaten with the thosai or putu mayam. – Agencies