As cultures change demographically so do traditions. Boshika Gupta finds how Diwali is celebrated differently in different parts of the world.
Diwali is a festival that is synonymous with lamps, glittering night lights, amazing food and family reunions. It’s perceived to be the Festival of Lights that shoos away all kinds of despair and darkness. Diwali is eclectic in nature and is much loved and celebrated across different cultures in India as well as in other parts of the world.
Of Stories and hope
Many believe that Diwali day marked Lord Rama’s homecoming after 14 years of exile. Ayodhya was lit up to commemorate his return and people marked the special occasion with diyasin their homes. This is why many people light diyason several days during the festival, keeping up with the spirit of the occasion and even decorating their homes with glittering trails of blinking lights.
Other stories include Diwali marking the coming of Goddess Kali in some places and beloved ancestors returning from heaven for a single day.
Essentially, all these stories are full of joy, hope and faith which bind them and raise the spirits of the revellers, giving people a chance to take a break from their everyday lives and get together for the festivities.
Although Indonesia doesn’t have many Hindus, Diwali is celebrated with enviable enthusiasm in some parts of the country. Bali witnesses absolutely exuberant celebrations thanks to its Indian residents. Diwali mostly involves several traditions similar to the ones observed in India such as shopping, gorging on sweets, meeting family, performing rituals and also, celebrating with floating lanterns.
Diwali is also referred to as Hari Diwalihere. It is prominent in almost all parts of the country and begins with an old ritual of bathing in oil at the crack of dawn. This is followed by prayers and special visits to local temples. The country has declared Diwali as a public holiday. People stay away from firecrackers (which aren’t permitted) and celebrate instead with bright lights in their homes and on the streets.
Fiji witnesses a lot of enthusiasm from its citizens for Diwali every year. They tick off all the usual activities such as shopping, buying gifts and sweets for friends and family, meticulously cleaning their homes and decorating everything with beautiful lights. Even schools and colleges join in with Diwali parties, giving the celebrations an interesting twist.
Deepavali in Singapore is a public holiday marked with a lot of fun, happiness and cheer. The country has a significant number of Hindus who work hard to make the festival a memorable one with lots of colourful flowers and lights. Even storefronts are decorated for the festive season and the air is filled with an intoxicating mixture of incense and flowers. People dress up for the occasion and offer prayers together.
Immigrants occupy a major chunk of the country’s population in the US. Many Indians choose to mark the festivities away from home by visiting temples across different parts of the country. They host a Diwali night that includes prayers and a vegetarian communal dinner. Bigger cities even witness lovely Diwali parades. Friends and family visit each other in different cities and celebrate the festival with gifts and delicious food.
Diwali is called Tiharin Nepal and the celebrations include worshipping Goddess Lakshmi and offering prayers. The nation celebrates for five days and every day is meant for a specific ritual. For example, the first day is meant for feeding cows, the second one is reserved for dogs; the third day is for celebrating Lord Rama’s triumph with beautiful lamps and lanterns. The last two days include a day meant for the lord of death, Yama and Bhai Dooj to celebrate and cherish the special bond between brothers and sisters.
Indians here beat homesickness by making the most of festivals and celebrating them together. The occasion calls for a visit to the temple and eating plenty of sweets, burning incense sticks, decorating homes with gorgeous lights and a prayer session at the Lakshmi temple. The cold weather doesn’t dampen the spirit of the revellers who battle the cold to indulge in the festivities and light up diyaswith a lot of enthusiasm.
Diwali here is called LoiKrathong(to float a basket) and takes place on the full moon day of the last month of the year, according to the Thai calendar. Lots of fireworks light up the sky in the country and hot air balloons made of rice paper also fill up the skies on this occasion. People celebrate by releasing lamps and candles on lakes and there are several boat parades coupled with cultural activities during the festival.
Guyana is situated on the northeast coast of South America and has a population of 7, 70,000. Around 33% of its population are Hindus and Diwali is a public holiday in the region. The customs are similar to India with people sharing delicious sweets, lighting up their surroundings, tidying up their homes and dressing in their best clothes during the festival.
There is a bit of symbolism involved with the distribution of sweets signifying sharing and exchanging greeting cards to promote goodwill towards people.
The popular sweet delicacies include barfi and kheer. People wear new clothes as it holds a special meaning for them and stands for a healthy soul in a healthy body. They make sure their homes are well lit so that Goddess Lakshmi is able to pay them a visit effortlessly.
Essentially, this festival brings together people from different parts of the world. It reminds some of home, family and their favorite sweets. It’s an opportunity to bond with family members against a beautiful backdrop full of diyasand lights, sharing lots of delicious food and chatter. It may embrace many forms in different parts of the globe and be celebrated with all kinds of customs.
It may be recognized by different names and have several extraordinary stories. Its spirit remains the same and unites people to join forces and fight darkness with positivity and light.