Sunday, October 30, 2011
On Oct 26th, I was able to experience the very lovely and highly celebrated Indian Holiday Diwali!! Diwali is analogous to the Christmas holiday celebrated in the United States. Diwali is one of the Indian festivals celebrated all over India, with equal enthusiasm and zeal. The word 'Diwali' is the abbreviation of the Sanskrit word 'Deepavali', which means 'rows of lights'. One of the major Hindu festivals, it is celebrated to commemorate the victory of good over the evil, when Lord Rama defeated Ravana and rescued his wife Sita from his custody. It is predominantly a five-day festival, with a number of customs and rituals followed during each day. People prepare themselves for the festival weeks ahead, by cleaning and decorating their premises.
The main festival day falls on the no-moon day of the dark half of Kartik, according to the Hindu lunar calendar. Celebrated with vigor and gaiety by people of every religion, the magical effect of Diwali creates an atmosphere of joy and festivity. Innumerable lamps are lit on the roofs and windowsills of the houses, thus, giving a divine look to the whole scenario. It is said that Lakshmi, Goddess of Wealth, roams the earth on this day and enters the house that is pure, clean and brightly illuminated. Therefore, people, before exchanging gifts and bursting crackers, offer prayers to the deity.
I had the pleasure of celebrating Diwali with my good friend Luxme Harihan’s family in Delhi. I first went to visit her family members, Sujata and John Sundaresan in South Delihi who celebrate Diwali by performing Rangoli ceremonies. Rangoli is a traditional decorative folk art of India. These are decorative designs made on floors of living rooms and courtyards during Hindu festivals and are meant as sacred welcoming areas for the Hindu deities. The purpose Rangoli is decoration and it is thought to bring good luck.
Sujata’s community where she lives has been enacting a rangoli tradition for years. This year the house blocks had to develop a theme and draw rangoli’s that illustrate the themes selected. Her particular block was celebrating the history of the God, Krishna! It was a beautiful night. I came to her house when when they were still drawing and decorating the courtyard in the day. Sujata showed me around and welcomed me in into her home and community right away. Since she was a judge this year, she showed me all of the blocks and what they each designing. It was great. But at night, after everything was totally lit, the entire celebration took on another level of excitement. It was truly a wonderful sight. Candles, oils, designs a blaze, the Diwali fireworks in the background…..I was wonderfully amazed.
I then visited Luxme’s other family members, Gouri and Neeraj Mehta, in a town called Gurgoan. Gurgoan is a suburb of Delhi and many international corporations have affiliate offices located in the this area. Gouri also welcomed me in with open arms. At Gouri’s home, Diwali was more of a traditional celebration. Prayers were sent up, family came over, and a good Diwali meal was prepared. The meal consisted of, beans, potatoes, and sweets for the gods, great conversation, family antics, fireworks, and late night stories….I felt right at home.
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