Welcome to my first blog - Global Addictions! :)
In my blog, I will explore global cultures and traditions. Since Diwali, the festival of lights is tomorrow, I thought it would befitting to start this blog with a post with this topic and discuss how this festival is celebrated around the world.
You may or may not know that Diwali is a five day festival that originated in India and celebrates the Hindu New Year. The festival occurs in either October or November of each year. The origin of the festival can be traced to the story of the Hindu God Ram and his wife Sita in the ancient Sanskrit text, the Ramayana. In this story, the evil King Ravana kidnaps Sita but Lord Ram rescues her after defeating Ravana in an epic battle. Thus Diwali, in a nutshell, is a festival in which people celebrate the triumph of good over evil. In addition, Diwali is the beginning of the Hindu New Year, so Goddess Laxmi (the Goddess of Wealth) and Lord Ganesh (the remover of obstacles) are worshipped during puja (prayer).
Several of my friends from all over the globe have graciously shared their Diwali traditions with me. Read more as they share their experiences below.
Welcoming Goddess Laxmi into the Home
The traditional diya (clay lamp) is made from terracotta-colored clay, but are also available in a wide variety of colors. Personally, I love shopping for diyas and typically choose ones with vibrant colors and patterns. On Diwali night the diyas are lit and are placed outside and inside the house. Our family tradition is to place diyas outside the entrances of our house to welcome Goddess Laxmi into our home. In addition to lighting diyas at the entrances, footprints of Goddess Laxmi are made as well. Rangoli is another way in which Goddess Laxmi can be welcomed into the home. Rangoli is colored powder, from which people will make images of gods, or geometric patterns outside the main entrance of their home.
Nisha Shyamsukha is a member of Kids Book Cafe, which is an on-line community for parents, kids and book lovers to recommend & discover children’s books. Nisha lives in Siliguri, West Bengal, India, and shares that "we make the footprints of Goddess Laxmi using red clay and chuna right from the main door to the entrance of the house. Red clay is used to make the foot using our fist and the fingers are made in white dots. It looks super cute!"
Rakhi Puri is an Integrated Marketing Manager in Outlook Publishing and is a member with Kids Book Cafe. She lives in Delhi, India and says that on "Diwali we meditate and talk about the festival with our little one and we love making Rangoli. We also keep Diwali dinner with neighbors and it's a beautiful relaxed night."
Goddess Laxmi Image by Bishnu Sarangi at Pixabay
Fireworks and New Clothes
Fireworks are also a big part of the Diwali festivities. It is believed that when fireworks are lit on Diwali night, it scares away evil spirits. Pearl D'Silva is an early childhood educator who lives New Zealand says "for the last 18 years, the Auckland Council has been organising the Auckland Diwali Festival as an opportunity for local Indians as well as the other citizens to celebrate and to come together to have fun! It is also beautiful to see places of significance such as the Sky Tower, Auckland Harbour Bridge and The Auckland Museum lit up at night in shades of yellow, orange and pink, a true testimony to the Festival of Lights!"
Another common Diwali tradition is to buy new clothes for the family. Julia Salo-Mani is an early childhood development educator and is Founder and CEO of Himani Readers, an organization that aims to promote new authors, diverse children's literature, and bilingual and multilingual books. Julia has lived in the United States, India and Thailand. She says that when celebrating Diwali in India, "dressing in new clothes, eating sweets and going for long walks around Indian neighborhoods lit by diyas, to see the twinkle lights will always be a special moment in time for me."
Family, Parties, Food and Sweets
For those living outside of India, it can be challenging to keep Diwali traditions alive. However, for those of us who have lived in the United States, we have managed to celebrate Diwali with friends in our local communities so that the tradition can continue on with the future generations. FaceTime or video chatting has made it much easier to bridge distances so that family can connect on special occasions.
Mithai (Sweets) Image by saumendra at Pixabay
Shaila Patel is a pharmacist by training, a medical office manager by day, and a writer by night. Shaila writes young adult fiction and has had three books published - Soulmated, Fighting Fate, Enduring Destiny. Shaila says she "grew up at a time when there weren’t many Indians in the States. So as a child, what traditions my family and their few friends cobbled together felt more like an excuse to have another party. Even as our population grew and temples were built around the country, to me, the Diwali parties of my childhood are the impressions I remember most—aluminum trays filled with food that my mom had spent two or more days preparing, getting to string Christmas lights earlier than anyone else in our neighborhood, and a house filled with people laughing and telling stories of their time in India."
Priyanka Komala is a Technology Leader, Keynote Speaker and Podcast Host of #CurryUpStartUp - a Podcast which showcases Asian entrepreneurs. Priyanka says "celebrating Diwali in the USA outside of my home country India has made me realize the need for a conscious effort to meet with family, friends locally and parents digitally back home. My mom makes our favorite South Indian sweet pongal, vadas, lemon rice and serves on a banana leaf."
Vada Image by Nisha Gill at Pixabay
As you can see, there are many ways in which this beautiful festival of Diwali may be celebrated. I hope you enjoyed reading about the different Diwali traditions and found it insightful. For those of you celebrating, I hope you have a wonderful time with family and friends and wish you a Happy and Shubh (good) Diwali!
About the Author
Anita Badhwar is a former International Education Coordinator in higher education and is author of the Little Princess Rani children's book series which connects children to Indian culture and festivals.