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2703Diwali Introduction

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  • Devendra Singh
    Nov 7, 2007

      Dhinchak Diwali


      The festival of Diwali needs no introduction. A time for celebration, shopping, family and food; people throughout the world are familiar with the festival of lights. Let's see how this festival is celebrated around the world.

      In Punjab, the day following Diwali is known as tikka when sisters make a paste with saffron and rice and place an auspicious mark on their brother's foreheads as a symbolic gesture to ward off all harm.
      In North India, on Diwali children emerge scrubbed clean to get into their festive attire, and light up little oil lamps, candles and incense sticks for setting alight crackers and sparklers.
      In Maharashtra, a festival commemorating a young prince whom Yama, the God of Death, had claimed four days after his marriage is celebrated. According to legend, Yama promised that those who observed the day would be spared untimely death and so lamps are lit to mark the festival and placed facing south, unlike other festive days, because south is the direction assigned to Yama.
      Jains celebrate Diwali too. It is the occasion on which Lord Mahavira established dharma.
      Diwali is one of the oldest rituals for Kashmiri pundits. Earthen lamps were placed in temples, on the road crossings, cremation grounds, banks of rivers, streams and lakes hills houses, at the foot of trees, cow sheds, court yards and shops. Sweet puris are made and offered to Lord Narayan.
      In the South India, Diwali is celebrated as the victory of good over evil with the slaying of Narakasura. To commemorate this event, people wake before sunrise and make a mixture of kumkum with oil. After crushing a bitter fruit with their feet symbolic of the demon, they apply the mixture on their foreheads. They then have ritual oil baths, anointing themselves with sandalwood paste. Visits to temples for prayers are followed by large family breakfasts.
      In Mauritius, the festival is marked by lightening of earthen lamps in rows making images out of the rows. Lakshmi is worshipped and crackers are burnt to scare away evil spirits.
      In Nepal, the festival continues for five days. Every day has its special significance. The first day is dedicated to cows; rice is cooked and fed to the cows believing that Goddess Lakshmi comes in the form of a cow. The second day is for dogs as the Vahana of Bhairava. Delicious food is made especially for dogs. On the third day, lights and lamps are lit to illuminate the entire surroundings. The fourth day is dedicated to Yama, the Hindu God of Death. He is prayed to for long life. The fifth and final day is Bhhaya Dooj dedicated to brothers who are wished long life and prosperity by their sisters.
      In Malaysia, Diwali is called Hari Diwali. The south Indian traditional of oil bath precedes the festivities. The celebration includes visits to temples and prayers at household altars. Small lamps made from clay and filled with coconut oil and wicks are a common sight to signify the victory of Lord Rama. Diwali is celebrated almost all over Malaysia except in Sarawak and the Federal Territory of Labuan.
      In Singapore, Diwali is called Deepavali. Most of the Indian population comes from Tamil Nadu and the festivities are similar to that of southern India. Most of the offices and commercial institutions and organizations remain closed on this day.
      In Sri Lanka, the festival is marked by illumination, making of toys of enamel and making of figures out of crystal sugar popularly known as misiri. Burning of crackers in the evening of the festival is a common practice of this festival.
      In Japan, the festival is celebrated in a unique way that is not common in India. People go out into the orchards and gardens and hang lanterns and paper structures on the branches of trees. Dance and music continues throughout the night. New clothes, spring cleaning and boating are related activities of the festival. The places of worship are decorated with beautiful wallpapers to bring in the festive mood and the auspicious beliefs related to the festival.
      In Thailand, Diwali is celebrated as Lam Kriyongh during the months of October-November. The festival has almost similar ways of celebration as that of Diwali. Lamps made of banana leaves with candles placed in them along with a coin and incense is set afloat on a river. The festival is not an extravagant affair. People greet each other and sweets are distributed. In South Africa, Diwali holds an important place in the festival calendar of the region. The celebration is more or less same to that of India. Most of the Hindus are from Gujarat and Tamil Nadu and continue to follow their regional variations of Hinduism. In Kenya and Tanzania, Diwali is usually celebrated the same way India does. Illumination of lamps and worshipping of Goddess Lakshmi are some of the common practices. Diwali is also declared a national holiday in Kenya. In the United Kingdom, Indians celebrate Diwali with much gusto. The occasion is marked by a visit to the local temple to worship the shrine to Lakshmi. Eating special sweets, burning of incense sticks, lighting the home and surroundings and the blowing of the conch shell follows the prayer session in the Lakshmi temple. The festival is celebrated according to the Hindu solar calendar. In Australia, due to the large number of Hindus immigrants, Diwali is celebrated with enthusiasm. The lighting of lamps and diyas is a common practice. However, the non-availability of the appropriate material have influenced and given a touch of modernity in the celebrations. In Trinidad and Tobago, Diwali celebrations have a unique flavour. The festival day is regarded as a national holiday and marked by scores of functions besides the usual rituals. The Ministers of the Government also participate in functions and celebrations. The belief behind the festival is that same as of India, which is, prevalence of good over evil. The celebrations continue for over a week and the headquarters of the National Council of Indian Culture at Diwali Nagar becomes the focal point. In Guyana, Diwali is declared a national holiday. The tradition of celebrating the festival is believed to have been brought to Guyana in the year 1853 by the first indentured people from India. The legends related to the festival are similar to that of India. The celebration of the festival includes, distribution of sweets, illuminating the inside and out side of the house, exchange of greetings, cleaning of houses and wearing of new clothes. The distribution of sweet signifies the importance of serving and sharing whereas exchange of greeting cards denotes the goodwill of each other. The sweets distributed mainly consist of mithai, pera, barfi, and kheer. The tradition of wearing new clothes is the symbol of healthy souls in healthy bodies. Cleaning of homes and keeping them well illuminated in and outside is a practice meant to illuminate the road for Goddess Lakshmi.