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DIWALI : The festival of lights

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44425061980c1def26454cb2ee4c84f1.jpgMy daughter, who is 9 had a friend over for a sleepover. We are Hindus and she is Christian. She was absolutely enchanted by my daughter's Diwali ensemble and wanted to know all about Diwali. So here goes:

Diwali is the €˜Christmas' of Hindu festivals. 

Where ?
All over the world wherever there are Hindus. It is the most important festival in India and the happiest holiday. It is also a national holiday in countries like Malaysia, Mauritius, Fiji etc.

When ?
It has a fixed date in the Hindu calendar (based on the lunar cycle) but  varies in the Western calendar around the months of October and November. It is the night of the new moon€¦..so quite a dark night.

Why?   
It is based upon the Hindu mythology of the Ramayana. A very interesting story of a great King called Ram. It was the day Lord Ram returned to Ayodhya after 14 years of exile in the forest with his wife Sita and brother Laxman. It was a very dark night so the people of Ayodhya lit clay lamps all over the kindgdom to welcome him back.  He had defeated Ravana, the King of Lanka who was a demon with 10 heads. Ravana had kidnapped the beautiful Sita and Ram won her back after a big war (the day celebrated as Dasshera) and brought a new era of safety and happiness. He was crowned King upon his return.

How?

  • In India: Shop till you drop! e21db7aea257c49a46ab13534dced4b7.jpgMeet, Greet and Eat!

People clean and decorate their homes. They buy clothes and jewellery (especially gold) and sweets. The 5 days prior to Diwali are also important and have their own significance and religious ceremonies including Lakshmi puja ie the prayers to Lakshmi the goddess of wealth and prosperity. People visit each other's homes and exchange cards and sweets wishing each other health, wealth and happiness. It's a time for friends and family to come together and celebrate. At night they light diyas (clay lamps) or candles inside and outside their houses and enjoy fireworks.

  • In England we do all of the above.  Any excuse to shop!! Any excuse to eat!!

Luckily the Fireworks night is around the same time, which allows us to have a great fireworks display for Diwali too. Leicester has the biggest celebration in UK and of course London.

  • In our house:

We spring clean and make our home look its best. We all get ourselves new clothes (We don't buy gold!!).
I have a cousin in London who visits. We have lots of Indian friends around where we live and we get together and plan a Diwali party at one of our homes. Its usually potluck (lots of food) and we love to dress up and wear all our lovely jewellery. The kids have a great time together especially doing the fireworks at night.

There are also big Diwali gatherings, around 500 people or so eg. Bollywood night where there are some ab734ab2c6b0f84ff53be85b6295bcf8.jpgshows and dance performances by children followed by a lot of food€¦naturally. We sometimes attend those and enjoy the opportunity to meet a lot of people at the same time. It is like a big social. 

I love decorating our house and making rangoli designs ( freehand patterns drawn using coloured powder )with my daughter. I like to light the traditional diyas ( clay lamps ) as opposed to the electric lights . They have a beautiful, mystic charm about them.

Overall Diwali for me is:  Lights, colour, clothes, food, friends and lots of fun.

Shalini Iyengar

Shalini Iyengar

I am a doctor within the NHS and have a 9 year old daughter. I have a great interest in writing articles about subjects close to my heart.

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