27 October, 2011

My First Diwali - Festival of Lights

Diwali in India is like Christmas in America. It is the largest Hindu festival celebration of the year, and largest celebration in India. Called Diwali, or Deepawali, it is the Festival of Lights, and the name translates to "row of lamps." It celebrates the return of Lord Rama, and celebrates the victory of good over evil.

"Rangoli" artwork in colored powder is typically at the end of a home's driveway, I saw many displays in front of the gate. It is created as a sacred welcome for deities into a home. Hanging yellow and orange flowers on houses, cars, doorways, and gates is also very common as an offering to the gods, as is the powder. Hindus have millions of gods, I was quoted 38 million, but people only worship a few of their own choice. I have also been told that Hindu gods are like one god in various forms. 

Even Harley-Davidson dressed up for Diwali.

Many houses and buildings will put up strings of lights for Diwali as Americans do for Christmas (in America we would call these lights "Christmas Lights"). 

Crackers (or Fireworks in America) are a big part of Diwali at night. From about 7-11 pm these were going off constantly all over, made quite a racket, too. People light off crackers outside their homes, and there is a continuous display going on from everyone participating, pretty cool to watch from the roof of the hostel. In the US, we have fireworks, but I would usually just see a 15-20 minute public display when there is a community showing. Here, it is an all night affair, the sky was ablaze with light, and much more common for people to light off their own, so they were being lit off from every direction. Some guys from the hostel picked up some crackers and were lighting them off, but, I decided a couple sparklers were enough for me on the participation end...

This is a Lakshmi-Pooja offering, a form of worship. This particular offering is praying for Lakshmi, Goddess of Money, pictured in the center of the tri-figure image. All of these things are offered so that a person will become prosperous in the future. Diwali is considered a good day to bless certain items so that they may prosper, it is also considered somewhat of a New Year. Many families will set-up offerings like this in their homes, and they will pray to it as a form of worship, and it is also customary for families to go to Temple on Diwali, as Christians would go to Church on Christmas Day or Eve. 

Small clay lamps like this are filled with oil and lit to celebrate the triumph of good over evil. 

Traditional Indian men's wear, worn by a hostel mate. I believe it is called a sherwani, but a simpler version is kurta pajamas if it is a plainer garment. Many offices also had employees wear traditional clothing before Diwali, and people will often wear new clothes and jewelry, and buy quite lavish clothing. The sharing of sweets also is a big part of Diwali.

The office seemed a bit quieter today with some people taking a holiday day or two around this time before and after Diwali.

Well, maybe that was kind of boring for my Indian friends, as they already know about Diwali, but hopefully it was interesting from a newbie Diwali celebrator's point of view. On a side note, I first heard about Diwali on the American TV show "The Office," an absolutely hilarious show for those that haven't seen it, I know most people I've met in India haven't heard of it because it isn't aired here.

Happy Diwali!

"There is a force in the universe, which, if we permit it, will flow through us and produce miraculous results." ~Mahatma Gandhi

P.S. Please inform me if you notice a detail of my blog might not be right on this post or future posts, I try to fact check everything, but, wouldn't want to get anything important wrong! Thanks to those that already have! I love getting feedback from my viewers.


  1. Pankaj Trivedi07 November, 2011

    Wow! Just one word for this.

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