Deepavali: India's most spectacular festival
The atmosphere is vibrant. The burst of crackers shows no sign of stopping. The night is colorful with the splash of lights produced by countless sparklers. Fireworks are at its best display. Every home is decorated with, lamps, candles, and lights. Children are enjoying every moment with high voltage enthusiasm. The bakeries are loaded with tons of sweet packets wrapped in glossy papers.
The whole India is on high spirits. It is time for a great celebration. Yes, it is Deepavali (also known as Diwali), the most spectacular festival of India. It is the most celebrated one too. What Christmas is for the world, it is Deepavali or Diwali for India. It is also known as the "Festival of Lights".
Deepavali is celebrated with great joy, noise, fanfare, lighting up and heavy spending. It is mainly an occasion for traders and children. Grand shopping is done during this festival. Cloths, Jewelleries, Crackers, Fireworks, Sweets, Flowers, Home Appliances and other Electronic Goods all purchased in plenty. Government offices in Delhi, Mumbai and other big cities are flooded with gifts given by those who seek some service or help from these offices. They do it with pleasure. Since this being an occasion to exchange gifts and sweets, the business shops have a good time. All shops are decorated beautifully and lit up brightly.
It is perhaps the only festival celebrated in India on a new moon day (amavasi). The new moon day is often considered inauspicious. It is the day of mourning, a day to remember one's ancestors. Hence, many Hindus choose this day to make an offering (Tharpanam) to their ancestors.
On this day, Laxmi (the Goddess of Wealth) and Ganesh are prominently worshiped through 'Poojas' and 'Aarties'. The Aarties at night on Deepawali is a marvelous scene to experience. If you are in the Northern part of India, you can immerse in the festivity mood in totality as it is such a grand celebration there.
In South India, except Kerala, you can watch the joyful celebration everywhere. I found the festival in its true spirits more in Tamil Nadu. In many parts of South India, especially in Tamil Nadu, the Diwali rituals include the sesame oil bath and a morning prayer. What amused me the most while I was in Tamil Nadu was their special Diwali breakfast: Idly with Chicken or Mutton! When the villagers mostly prefer Mutton, Chicken is what the curry choice of the urban people. The veggies, of course, avoid this custom. On two or three occasions, I had the luck to be at my sister's residence in Trichy in Tamil Nadu and could witness the greatness of Deepavali there. The whole night was 'exploding' with the sound of crackers with no brake.
In Kerala, Deepavali is celebrated more with sweets and temple visit. On this day take a ritual bath in the sea paying homage (Tharpanm) to our beloved departed souls is a usual custom there. Feeding of crows is a part of 'Tharpanam'. The sweet exchange is so rampant in Kozhikode (Calicut) in Kerala.
The memory of some 'Aarti' I attended in Kozhikode at my former boss B.B. Aggarwal's house still lingers in my mind. It was during the '90s. The Aarti at night was a spectacular visual. It was a grand 'pooja' to please Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth. The song played on the audio system was capable of generating true devotion and spiritual mood. After the 'pooja', he gave us sweets, which were so delicious too. He also gave us cash enclosed in a small envelope. It is a custom in India to give money on good occasion to our loved ones. After this, it is time to display the magnificent fireworks. The experience on fireworks was really amazing. He permitted us to leave his home only after providing us sumptuous feast with many dishes of high quality. All these are my nostalgia on Deepavali.
Diwali Celebration-A Video
India has many celebrations and festivals, but none can beat the charm of Deepavali. To feel it well, we need to visit North India and metros like Mumbai, Delhi and other big cities like Ahmedabad, Banaras, etc. I wish to witness a Deepavali celebration from any of these places just to feel its true richness and fanfare. As I live in Kerala, I didn't have a good opportunity to experience the Deepavali extravaganza.
On Deepavali day, all wear new dresses, exchange gifts, and sweets. Visit temples, families, friends are highlights of the celebration. The houses of faithful are cleaned and painted. Golds and silver coins are worshiped as it is the symbol of prosperity. Everyone decorate their homes with flowers and bright colored 'Rangoli'. The entrance of homes is lit with 'Diyas' placed uniformly on each side of the main door to attract wealth and prosperity. It is believed Goddess of Wealth likes cleanliness and roams the earth on festive days, entering only those households that are neat, clean and well illuminated.
The traders start new ledgers on Deepavali. After settling accounts, new ledgers, cash boxes or safes and Laxmi are worshiped for a prosperous new year. On Deepavali, day and night, the worship of lamps has a special importance. Pooja is performed with great devotion. After the pooja, the lamps are placed at various spots in and around the house to cover the maximum possible area with light.
Since Diwali is the season demanding huge stock and large usage of crackers and fireworks, it is the time for injury too! A large number of accidents are reported from everywhere in the country during the festival season. Most of the cases are due to carelessness in handling these hazardous goods. The Government of India regularly issues warning and publish safety guidelines nationwide to avoid fire accidents. Still the accidents and casualties are increasing, the most victims being children and women. We can only pray 'to be safe than sorry'.
It would be nice if I write some relevant story related to this festival. It goes like thus: On this very day, Lord Rama had returned to Ayodhya after serving 14 years exile and vanquishing Ravan. The citizens of Ayodhya had celebrated his return with lighting up the entire city with lamps. Following that example, the descending generations made it a tradition to light up homes with lamps and bulbs nowadays. It is believed that thus Laxmi gets propitiated and she enters the house as prosperity and good fortune. (Courtesy: Hindu Fasts & Festivals by Rani Srivastava and Igen. B.)
Deepavali comes mostly in October/November months and this time it happens on 11th November 2015.
The lamps, sweets, crackers, fireworks, gifts.....Deepavali-the Festival of Lights is also the triumph of light over darkness and good over evil. No one can ignore the light and sound it creates. It is India's grand and real national festival. Depending on the territorial changes, the flavors of Diwali may vary, but the fervor is one. To feel it, you have to land on this soil. So please do visit India and be a part of the festivity. Happy Diwali!