The festival of lights is upon us! Diwali celebrations commence today

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AngelPolacco

Title image: Aaj News

Break out your Christmas lights and put them up around your house! Not for Christmas, but Diwali. 

Background and significance

Diwali, also known as the “Festival of Lights” is a Hindu celebration that religiously signifies the “victory of light over darkness, good over evil, knowledge over ignorance, and hope over despair.”
(Source: http://www.hinduismtoday.com/pdf_downloads/pagers/Hindu-Festival_Diwali_broadsheet-color.pdf).

This year Diwali takes place on October 30, and is celebrated for about five days.

The date for Diwali changes every year as it’s based on the sighting of the “darkest, new moon night of the Hindu Lunisolar month Kartika in Bikram Sambat calendar,” (Source: Wikipedia), which is usually between mid-October to mid-November.

Image source: Wikimedia commons

It is commemorated by using different forms of light and lighting up your entire home, whether it’s with cherry bulbs, lights strung up around your house, lamps, chandeliers, or candles, the fact that there’s a lot of light is an integral part of the celebration of Diwali. Candles are most commonly lit and placed around the home. Light is a metaphor in Indian culture for knowledge. It serves as a reminder to appreciate education and to always seek the right path, for light is seen as a “guidance” that dispels the darkness. 

Celebrations and food

Like most religious festive occasions, people who celebrate Diwali usually buy new clothes and dress their best. Their clothing tends to be vibrant and colorful. Women and girls also apply henna or mehndi on their hands to commemorate the occasion.

Image source: The StoryPedia

Special Diwali prayers are also observed, called pooja in Hindi. Fireworks are also a regular aspect of Diwali as they can also be perceived as “light.”

For Hindus, Diwali marks the beginning of a new year, so there also tends to be a lot of delicious food prepared to get the celebrations underway. The popular dishes are mostly dessert ones. Carrot Halwa, which is basically a sweet made with carrots, is very common. Gulab Jamun, Jalebi, and Ras Malai, are also popular desserts that are consumed during Diwali.

Image source: ChicagoNow 

Rangoli and art

A common art form and practice for occasions such as Diwali is Rangoli. It involves using colorful materials such as grain, sand, flour, and even flower petals to create elaborate designs that have a geometric or floral shape. These usually decorate the floors of homes, mostly outside near the entrance of a house.

Image source: Practicalradiology

Rangoli is believed to bring good luck to those who have decorated their houses with them, and are traditionally done by women. The designs are very beautiful and colorful, and require a certain level of skills to make them even more detailed.

Happy Diwali to everyone celebrating! How will you celebrate Diwali here in Doha? Comment below!