Diwali, commonly referred to as the Festival of Lights, is a national holiday celebrated with great pomp and show in India. The celebrations stem from the ancient mythological story of Lord Rama’s victory over the demon Ravana. After Rama defeated Ravana, he returned with his wife the Goddess Sita, and brother Lord Lakshmana after fourteen long years of exile. And yet, this event holds a deep cultural significance reaching beyond one’s personal beliefs. People of Indian origin across the globe celebrate Diwali festivities as a time of inner reflection, socialization, and gratitude. The local customs might vary depending upon the region of the country, but no matter the location, the sky sparkles with fireworks. Just as prevalent is the sweet aroma of unique holiday dishes and delicacies as they infuse the air with magic, quite capable of making anyone’s nose perk up in curiosity.
The Diwali festivities consist of five days. Those days are the Dhanteras, Naraka Chaturdasi (Choti Diwali), Lakshmi Puja (Diwali), Govardhan Puja, and Bhai Dooj. Lakshmi Puja is the third day and is considered the main day of the Diwali festivities. Family members will come together and offer prayers to the Goddess Lakshmi and Lord Ganesha whilst spending time with one another. That is an integral part of the joy that Diwali delivers.
Circumstances oftentimes usher individuals out of their hometowns. Diwali is one excuse that allows Indians to return to their roots and meet those they may not have visited since the previous year. Besides the traditions and gifts, seeing those you love is the main draw for many who celebrate Diwali. The fifth and final day, Bhai Dooj, is a celebration to cherish the eternal bond between brothers and sisters. Individuals make merry and indulge in some traditional, lip-smacking delicacies while exchanging gifts. That’s how they wrap up their Diwali festivities on a note of love, light, happiness, and joy.
“In the evening, we place decorations for Lakshmi and light the fireworks. After that festival, we gather all our relatives, family members, and neighbors, then share snacks, presents, and stories with each other.” Head of Product Development Raunak Potnis
Light Up the Sky
The lighting of diyas, special homemade lamps, and the creation of unique Rangoli art are commonplace. However, it seems no Diwali celebration is complete without fireworks. The Indian fireworks market held a value of 50 billion Rupees as recently as 2020 before COVID-19 restrictions and limitations on fireworks sales. That’s an incredible amount of money spent to light up the sky. While economic and environmental drawbacks coincide with the usage of so many fireworks, the overarching sentiment seems to be that fireworks are an integral part of Diwali celebrations, a mindset many think’ers can attest to.
“As a kid, it was all about fireworks. It was all about going to different places, lighting them, and watching the spectacle. If I go back to my childhood, it seemed like every year there was a new kind of firework. Those memories stay with me, although now that I’m older, we don’t get quite as excited about lighting them ourselves. Now we just find a tall building and enjoy the show.” Developer Nishant K.
Everything is taken to the extreme when it comes to Diwali. Whether that be cleaning every nook and cranny of the house, going on a lavish shopping spree, or festival goers wearing their most elegant clothes, there’s no such thing as the ordinary for this holiday. Many observers will visit magnificent temples and offer prayers to Goddess Lakshmi and Lord Ganesha. The Gurudwaras are also lit with lights and lamps that stay on for the night as a guide for Lord Rama following his victory over evil. These traditions then converge and mingle with the various groups who celebrate Diwali, so the festivities become a nuanced, integrated environment.
“I think Diwali is more of a cultural thing than a religious thing. They all subscribe to concepts of Diwali. I am surrounded by people who aren’t exactly my religion, but it doesn’t feel like it’s dividing. It’s a cultural thing; religion doesn’t draw a line.” Developer Nishant K.
Culture Is Important
Doing my research for this article was not only enlightening but heartwarming as well. The ability of Diwali to bring people together, no matter their beliefs or location, is truly mind-blowing. It’s a unique trait of this holiday, the draw it has for anyone who wants to celebrate. No matter your place in the world, Diwali can offer a sense of comfort and happiness that’s hard to replicate. Diwali can offer a welcome respite for those who celebrate in times of divisiveness and uncertainty. It’s a festival that encapsulates the good humans can achieve, and I hope to see the spectacle one day.