Diwali, the Festival of Lights will be celebrated tonight in India and other parts of the world with much joy, euphoria and fervor. Diwali is a five-day Hindu festival that starts with Dhanteras and ends with Bhai Dooj/ Bhau Beej/Bhai Phota/Bhai Tika or Chitragupta Puja. It is one of the most important and major festivals of Hindus and is celebrated throughout India. Diwali is celebrated because on this auspicious day Lord Rama came back to Ayodhya after 14 years of exile with Sita and Lakshmana. The festival spiritually signifies the victory of light over darkness, good over evil, knowledge over ignorance and hope over gloom. On Diwali people light candles and diyas (earthen lamps), clean their houses and make colourful rangolis at the entrance of their house. People gift sweets and gifts to their loved ones and neighbours. Other than India, Diwali is also celebrated in other parts of the world where Hindus are a major population. It is an official holiday in Fiji, Guyana, India, Malaysia, Mauritius, Myanmar, Nepal, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago and in the Sindh province of Pakistan. These countries celebrate the festival with almost as much enthusiasm as India. Here are some countries which celebrate Diwali with as much fanfare as we Indians do with a little difference in celebrations.
Australia celebrates Diwali publicly among the people of Indian origin and the local Australians in Brisbane and Melbourne. Federation Square hosts Diwali fairs with live music and traditional dances of India, art and crafts as well as offering a variety of Indian cuisines. Spectacular fireworks are displayed on the Yarra River. In Brisbane, annual Diwali celebrations are held in the city’s Chinatown.
The festival Galungan is celebrated in the Hindu culture of Bali that signifies the victory of good (dharma) over evil (adharma) just like Diwali. However the dates and the rituals are derived from the Balinese calendar and culture. Galungan is a festival that marks the time when the ancestral spirits visit the Earth and the most noticeable sign of the celebration are the penjor- bamboo poles with offerings at the end which can be seen on the sides of the roads.
In Trinidad and Tobago communities all over the islands come together to celebrate Diwali. Stage performances, skits depicting Hindu culture and the mythology related to the festival are performed. Delectable Indian foods are prepared and diyas and lamps are lighted.
In Fiji, Diwali is a public holiday and is a religious event celebrated by the Hindus which are a majority population of the island. Diwali related festivities begin at least a week before the actual day and often people compare that the festival is celebrated on a grander scale in Fiji than in India. People deck up in Indian traditional clothes, light up oil lamps, burst crackers and invite their friends and neighbours to their homes to celebrate the festival.
Diwali is a federal public holiday in Malaysia and is celebrated with much pomp and hoopla. In Malaysia Diwali has taken a societal role as it brings bonhomie between the different religions and cultures of the people. People dress up in traditional attire and pray to Goddess Lakshmi.
Diwali is an official public holiday in Mauritius. People pray to Lord Rama, Goddess Lakshmi and Lord Ganesha for prosperity, good life and health. People prepare sweets at home and distribute them to friends and family.
Diwali is known as “Tihar” or “Swanti” in Nepal. It is celebrated similarly like India with five days of festivities however the traditions vary from those followed in India. On the first day (Kaag tihar) crows are offered food for they are considered as divine messengers. On the second day (Kukur tihar) dogs are given food for their honesty. On the third day Gai Toihar and on the fourth day Goru Tihar is celebrated where cow and ox are celebrated and fed respectively. On the third day Lakshmi Puja is performed, this is also the last day of the Nepal Sambat and hence businessmen close their accounts and books. Houses are cleaned and earthen lamps are lit near doors and windows. The fourth day is celebrated as the New Year. The next and the fifth day is celebrated as Bhai Tika where sisters and brothers meet and pray for the well being of each other and apply tilak or tika on each other’s forehead. The brothers give gifts to sisters whereas the sisters feed the brothers with sumptuous food.
Diwali is a gazette public holiday in Singapore and is celebrated amongst the minority Indian community. Bazaars, exhibitions and fairs are organized on the occasion of Diwali.
The festival is a public holiday in the island country. People take oil bath in the morning, wear new clothes and perform puja in the evenings. The festivities follow the Tamil culture of celebrating the festival and people light diyas, pray to Goddess Lakshmi and make toys of enamel and make figures out of crystal sugar.
In United Kingdom the festival of Diwali has started to gain importance and acceptance by the state. Hindus as well as non-Hindus celebrate this day as it has started gaining wider acceptance in the British consciousness. Prince Charles have attended Diwali celebrations at some of the UK’s prominent Hindu temples and Diwali has been celebrated every year at 10 Downing Street since 2009.
11. United States
Diwali was first celebrated at the White House by George W. Bush in 2003 and was given official status by the United States Congress in 2007. Diwali is celebrated with much fanfare and pomp by the Indian community living in the US. Barack Obama became the first President to personally attend Diwali at the White House in 2009. Diwali as a school holiday was declared by the South Brunswick in New Jersey, Howard County in Maryland, and Meadow School District & Syosset Central School District in New York. On October 5, 2016 the United States Postal Service issued a Diwali postage stamp.
Diwali is a festival that not only brings positive emotions and thoughts in people’s lives but it is also a festival that aims to bring people closer and knit the community in a tighter circle. Diwali as a festival transcends boundaries and evokes hope, faith, love and peace in people’s lives.