Diwali – a joyous & vibrant festival
India is a country of festivals but, Diwali is the biggest & brightest, celebrated with utmost fervour. Old or young, rich or poor, north or south – there is no distinction.
This day our country unites in celebrations throughout. It’s a season of joy, togetherness, splendour and enthusiasm sprinkled with compassion and kindness.
For as far back as I can remember, Diwali has been my favourite festival. There’s something in the air in Delhi – maybe it is the clear autumn skies with cotton-candy clouds, or the (finally) cool weather, or the gathering of friends and family. Perhaps, it is the prayers filled with joy and hope, or the lights that we all put up. It could be the decorated streets or temples, or the festive crackle and boom of fireworks. Not to mention the new clothes we got to wear. As a child, there were two important occasions when parents wouldn’t say no – your Birthday and Diwali.
Diwali festivities would kick off early-on in the Khanna family, with the house being prepared till it sparkled. There were a variety of mouth-watering sweets and savouries coming out of mom and grand mom’s kitchen. You eat till you get sick but you don’t stop. In preparation of celebrating light over darkness (symbolical for faith & courage over darkness & danger), our house would be decorated and the finest linen that we could afford would be out. This would inevitably be followed by strict instructions to behave ourselves!
On the day itself, we’d create beautiful Rangoli patterns, this could get competitive! The one below was probably my best work and then my creativity was exhausted. This was followed by Puja, the lighting of diyas/candles and exchange of gifts.
Did you know Diwali is also linked to gambling? There are stories of how people have gambled away their cars and houses, but that’s for another day!
Of the many mythological stories & gods associated with Diwali, it is said that Goddess Parvati was playing dice with her husband, Lord Shiva and she commanded that whosoever gambled on Diwali would prosper throughout the year. We take our gods seriously, hence the tradition.
My best memories of Diwali were how we would drop by at every relative’s house, eat more and then play a round of cards. Stakes were not more than 50p or £1, but we were a large family of extended cousins so this could amount to a tidy amount of £5 to £10. Now imagine doing this at 5-6 houses… you could be rich. One tradition that I’ve happily carried even as a grown up…stakes haven’t changed though.
One thing that has always stood out for me is how everyone gets swept into the gaiety surrounding Diwali. The secularism that India represents comes out in full force. Whatever be your religion, you’ll receive the same enthusiasm, love and efforts surrounding Diwali, from everyone.
It’s been 6 years since my move to UK, but Diwali is probably a time I get the most home sick. In my own way I’ve tried to maintain these traditions. During my first job in London, I remember working on Diwali and feeling miserable until a lovely soul stuck a post-it on my laptop and it made my day!
Today I am fortunate enough to be a part of OMD UK and celebrating it with all of you!
If you do want to learn more about the mythologies surrounding Diwali, attempt reading the Ramayana. There are abridged versions around and teach us the value of honesty, unity and righteousness.
Wish you all a very Happy & Prosperous Diwali! – Supriya