Diwali, The History Of Light Festival
Every year, between the end of October and the middle of November, the Indians of the world celebrate Diwali, the feast of light. Candles are lighted both inside and outside the houses and fireworks illuminate the sky. For five days, we listen to music, gifts and sweets and traditional dishes in an effervescent atmosphere.
Diwali is a pleasure for the eyes and a unique opportunity to discover the Indian culture. In 2017, the festivities will take place on October 17th.
The origins of the party
The feast of Diwali originated in Hindu mythology. According to the Ramayana, one of the most illustrious Indian epics, the young prince Rama decided to fight Ravana, a demon with ten heads and twenty arms. After fourteen years of exile, he succeeded in overthrowing him, thus saving his beautiful wife, Sita. Twenty days later, Rama and Sita returned to Ajodhya, their ancestral kingdom. The inhabitants illuminated the city with millions of small flames, in order to congratulate them and point out the way. Diwali is thus born under the sign of the shared happiness, but also of the conjugal harmony that incarnate Rama and Sita.
However, the origin of the festival remains controversial. According to another legend, it would commemorate the death of Narakasura, a demon killed by Krishna, the major deity of Hinduism. This is why Diwali can also symbolize the victory of good over evil.
Let There Be The Light Everywhere!
The course of the festival follows a precise timetable, although the rites may vary from one country to another. In India, the first day, Dhanteras, is devoted to preparations. Houses and shops should be as welcoming, clean and bright as possible. All this to please Lakschmi, goddess of fortune and beauty, who hates obscurity! We buy new dishes, silver objects, and beautiful clothes.
Not to mention the indispensable fireworks, firecrackers and garlands.
On the second day, Chhoti Diwali, is devoted to the veneration of Kali, the goddess of time and death, both destructive and creative. The third day is certainly the most important. During the darkest night of the year, Amavasya, the inhabitants make offerings to Ganesh, god of wisdom and intelligence, and to Lakshmi. The party is at its zenith!
The women come out, dressed in their finest saris and adorned with their finest jewels, pouring milk into the Ganges and placing candles on the ground and the balconies. Thousands of firecrackers and rockets are launched, we play music, we sing … and we play dice, which is supposed to guarantee a prosperous year.
The fourth day, Annakut, is that of abundance: for the occasion, food is distributed to the poor. Important offerings are also destined for Parvati, daughter of the mountain king and wife of Shiva. The pujas, ceremonies of adoration of the divinities, continue on the fifth day.
Diwali is among the most mesmerizing Indian festivals, a joy for the eyes and the senses. But it has not escaped the perverse effects of modernity. The millennial tradition now coexists with new practices, such as the purchase of firecrackers more and more powerful, expensive and polluting.
Government measures have nevertheless been adopted to limit these practices, which are contrary to the Hindu precepts of respect for nature. Tradition obliges, The festival has also internationalized in recent decades, to the rhythm of the Indian diaspora. Rites and ceremonies have small differences from one country to another
In Malaysia, Diwali (called “Hari Diwali”) symbolizes above all the triumph of good over evil. The tradition is to take a bath of oil before the start of the festivities. The suite is more classic: visits to temples, prayers. Small candles in clay filled with coconut oil are lit all over the place. In Mauritius, where the Indian community is in the majority, Diwali is a secular tradition. Oil lamps are placed in front of each house to ward off evil spirits and honor Lakshmi. We do not find this religious dimension in Reunion Island, where it is mostly an occasion to celebrate! Large flowered carts wind through the streets, to the sound of drums and Tamil songs. Concerts, shows, lectures and speeches follow one another in a good mood.
The Tamil community also celebrates Diwali in Sri Lanka: for the occasion, people wear new clothes and exchange gifts. We make enamel toys and figurines in crystallized sugar, called Misiri. In Nepal, the festivities take a different turn: on the first day, the sacred cows are honored by giving them rice. The next day, we offer delicious pieces of meat to the dogs, for one of them serves as a mount for a terrifying deity, Bhairava. If the third and fourth days are more classical, the fifth, Bhaiya Dooj, allows the sisters to wish their brothers long life and prosperity.
In the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, Diwali has a unique flavor, that of the Caribbean. This is the opportunity to bring together all the inhabitants, whatever their origin, during a good week! “Diwali Nagar” is celebrated even in the ministries, where we sometimes put on Indian ornaments. It is customary to light candles that are placed on bamboo stalks of all shapes that are more astonishing than the others, which decorate the public spaces and courtyards. Finally, Diwali is celebrated each year in London and New York. The English and American capitals take place in Bombay time: culinary stands, music, Indian dance shows, floating candles on the water of fountains, etc. These celebrations are open to all denominations.