A terrific medley of light, sound and color, Diwali is much more than just another Hindu festival. Traditionally described as the Festival of Lights, Diwali has become a household name… and it’s an incredible annual event!
What is Diwali?
Diwali is one of the biggest Hindu festivals celebrated around the world. Held in autumn every year, the festival dates back to ancient times when the end of the summer harvest season was celebrated with much pomp and splendour.
Diwali, meaning ‘the Festival of Lights’ signifies the triumph of light over darkness and good over evil. Legend has it that on this day many aeons ago, Lord Rama – an avatar of the Hindu god Vishnu, returned home triumphant after 14 long years of exile. To illuminate the path through which they return and in order to guide them home, diyas (clay lamps) are lit everywhere and the world is bathed in golden hues of light!
To others Diwali is dedicated to the Goddess Lakshmi, who is believed to bring wealth and prosperity. In many households, the celebrations include a puja (worship) of the Goddess to pray for health and happiness, and last for five days. This is also the time for the annual Indian gold rush, because buying gold or silver before Diwali is considered auspicious.
How is Diwali celebrated?
Although Diwali is probably best experienced in India, it’s effects are far more wide-ranging than you would think. In Auckland in particular, Diwali has become a ‘mega-event’ to celebrate the culture and traditions of India. From live music to dance shows and much more, Auckland really goes for it. So if you happen to be in the vicinity, come join in the celebrations!
It’s a family friendly event with lots of activities going on including music and dance performances, workshops and some kids activities. Add in a huge array of Indian food to sample from all the food stalls and a massive fireworks display on the Sunday night to end the festival and this really is an unmissable event in Aucklands event calendar.
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Melbournes Diwali Indian Festival has been held in Fed Square for the last 10 years, with Bollywood performances, live music, some Indian film screenings and of course lots of authentic Indian food on offer all under the glow of “glittering lamps to light up the darkness”, and maybe a few fireworks too!
Every year, as the days shorten and winter looms large, people all over the world wait breathlessly with sweets in tow, to light up the skies with their repertoire of carefully sourced firecrackers and holler ‘Happy Diwali’ to the unsuspecting passerby.
Houses are cleaned, often renovated, and always illuminated with sparkling fairy lights and oil lamps. Most doorways and foyers are decorated with beautiful designs on the floor, called ‘rangolis’.
Diwali celebrations, like most other Hindu festivals, are incomplete without the exchange of gifts. It’s the time to shop for new clothes and exchange sweets with one another, and enthusiastic shoppers make the rounds of malls and markets for several months before the festival begins. After all, finding the choicest gifts takes time!
While Diwali is celebrated all over India and several other countries, the rituals can vary considerably. While most firecracker enthusiasts wait till the evening to light up the sky, in South India, crackers can wake you up as early as 5 am! In East India, this festival coincides with the worship of Goddess Kali – the divine protectress. While most of the Hindus around the world abstain from eating meat, in East India this is the time for feasting and serving meaty treats to the Goddess as well as alcohol, as part of the rituals!
Elsewhere, several households continue to follow the ritual of gambling during Diwali. Families come together for friendly gambling matches that sometimes last through the night. At the end of the match, participants are treated to a plateful of sweets so everyone wins!
Click here to read more about how to celebrate Diwali in India.
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