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15 November 2020

Diwali - Deepavali - India - Festival of Lights 

Saturday, November 14th, right after the Friday 13th ;0, the new moon is just approaching in Asia.

This is exactly the moment when the rainy season comes in the dry season.

The intense typhoon season is ending in Southeast Asia, which we experience in the last days in Central Viet Nam, Laos, Cambodia and the Philippines. Typhoons and tropical storms, one after the other, ravage the country, leaving behind floods, broken trees, and devastated cities and villages. It looks quite dramatic.

At the same time, in the Indian subcontinent, the monsoon season is coming to an end, providing relief from intense rainfall and high temperatures.

The Asian harvest season ended with the celebration of the Mid-Autumn Festival. Now everyone is getting ready for the next season.

This moment in the Chinese and Indian calendars is special.

For on the night of November 14th to November 15th, on the new moon night, a new lunar month is coming and in India we celebrate Diwali or the Festival of Lights. Interestingly, the first mentions of Diwali as a festival of lights were found in Sanskrit texts in 90-95 AD. So they are quite old.

This holiday is also mentioned in his travel notes by the Venetian merchant Nicolo Conti, who visited India in the early fifteenth century and who wrote in his travel journal that "he had just seen lamps in great numbers, which burned day and night, illuminating with light streets, house roofs and living quarters ”.

Diwali, or Deepavali, is an Indian Festival of Lights that usually lasts five days and is celebrated during the Hindu lunar-solar month of Kartika. This month's New Moon Night is considered the darkest night of the year in the Indian subcontinent.

This, the most popular festival of Hinduism, symbolizes the spiritual "victory of light over darkness, good over evil and knowledge over ignorance."

 

 

Festival of Lights

Diwali celebrations vary by region and tradition. The most widespread custom among Hindus is to light "dijas" (small clay lamps filled with oil) on the night of the new moon to invite the presence of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. In Bengal, the goddess Kali is worshiped. Northern India also celebrates the return of Rama (along with Sita, Lakshmana and Hanuman) to the city of Ayodhya after defeating Ravana, the ten-headed demon king, thus linking the festival with the festival of Dusera. In South India, the festival means the conquest of the demon Narakasura by Krishna. Some people celebrate Diwali as a memento of Lakshmi and Wishnu weddings, while others celebrate it as Lakshmi's birthday.

During the festival, "dijas" are lit and lined up in rows along the windowsills, temples and houses, and placed on rivers and streams. The houses are decorated and the floors inside and out are covered with "rangoli", composed of elaborate patterns made of colored rice, sand or flower petals. The doors and windows of the houses are open in the hope that Lakshmi will go inside and bless the inhabitants with wealth and success.

The fact that the date of this holiday is closely related to the lunisolar calendar means that each year Diwali is celebrated at different times. Usually between mid-October and mid-November.

Year ago, when I was visiting India, I was right after Diwali and it was the beginning of November. This year, the holiday falls on November 14th, that is today. Hence the topic of this article.

If we want to compare the importance of this holiday for the followers of Hinduism, it can be clearly said that it is a holiday equivalent to Christmas. The similarity is clearly visible. Shopping, giving gifts and making wishes. Performing religious rituals. But also fantastic fun, colorful, smiling and laughing feast combined with eating delicacies, mainly sweets.

Preparations for the Diwali festival begin a few days before its coming. They mainly focus on preparing apartments, houses, restaurants, bars through general cleaning, sometimes renovation and decorating all these places with olive lamps as well as intricate decoration of "rangoli" made of rice flour, flower petals or colored sand.

During the entire Diwali festival, people wear their best clothes, light their houses with oil lamps, and religious ceremonies held in temples are to ensure prosperity and health.

The Diwali Festival of Lights is celebrated by all ethnic groups in India. Not only on the Indian Peninsula. Diwali is also celebrated in Malaysia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and many other Asian countries where Hindu groups live. Interestingly, also in Indonesia, where the island of Bali is the mainstay of Hinduism in an Islamic state, after all.

It is a very nice experience. Young people and the elderly, beautifully dressed. Ladies in colorful saris, gentlemen in colorful shirts. Everyone with flowers around their necks is celebrating Diwali by lighting thousands of oil lamps, thanks to which the atmosphere in the evening makes an amazing impression. In short, it is the largest holiday in the Indian subcontinent, comparable only to the Chinese New Year or Christmas.

 

 

5 days of feasting...

So what are the Indians doing during these five days?

It is interesting that each of these days has its own meaning and something special happens in each of them. Hindu followers very strictly follow the recommendations of what and how to do each day in the five-day Diwali calendar.

 

Day 1st - Dhanteras

On the first day, which is two days before the new moon, the people of the subcontinent and the Hindus in Asia clean or restore their homes. Cleaning also includes the preparation of oil lamps and decorations on the floor. At the end of the day, beautiful "rangoli" compositions are created. The lights and decorations prepared on the first day will shine and decorate all houses, apartments, offices and factories for the next five days.

 

Day 2nd - Naraka Chaturdashi

The second day is the day when Hindus pray mainly for the release of the souls of their loved ones, for them to leave hell and go to heaven. This day is mainly celebrated in temples.

It is also a day when food is bought for the entire festival. Mainly popular sweets prepared from fruit, soy milk, butter and flour. Dozens of colors and shapes, an extremely rich menu, will accompany the Indians for the next few days. Imagine countless amounts of halva, sweet rice or roulades filled with dried fruit. Dozens, if not hundreds, of different dishes that Hindu believers will share with family and friends. It is also the day when friends, family friends and business associates visit each other with modest gifts. This day is devoted to the Hindus visiting their favorite temple. On the second day, there is also a massage and a ritual bath in aromatic oils. All of this must be completed before sunrise.

 

Day 3rd - Lakshmi Pujan

The third day is the most important day of the entire Diwali festival.

Hundreds of thousands of houses, temples, offices and workplaces are lit up by millions of oil lamps and thousands of hand-made decorations made of colored sand, rice and flower petals.

It is the day when light overcomes the darkness, when a new moon opens a new month.

On the third day, the youngest family members visit their eldest relatives, grandmothers and grandparents. In companies and offices, employees receive cash rewards and modest gifts. The stores close quite early on that day and at the same time offer customers price discounts.

Interestingly, the Indians do not fast during these five days. On the contrary, they eat, drink and party.

When the evening of the third day of Diwali comes, the participants put on their best clothes. Girls and ladies, of course, wear the best jewelry and their most beautiful saree.

The gentlemen put on new shirts and pants. Together, they all light up successive rows of oil lamps, appearing on window sills, stairs, streets and temples. It looks fabulous and mystical at the same time.

On this very day, mostly boys, light fireworks. Everyone shares sweets and food prepared for the Diwali festival.

 

Day 4th - Annakut

After a long evening with families, in temples and at fireworks shows, day four begins. At the same time, the first day of the new lunar month. The first day after Diwali, where the rituals mainly focus on celebrating the relationship between the wife and husband. On this day, husbands give gifts to their wives and in-laws invite their partners, daughters and sons to their homes, where they host them with a ceremonial dinner and give gifts.

According to some beliefs, it is also a day to celebrate the victory and takeover of the island of Bali from the hands of the Islamic religion and hand it over to Vishnu.

In agricultural regions, this day is dedicated to the celebration of preparation for the new harvest season with rituals to protect the fields and crops from the wrath of the god Indra.

Related to this ritual is the custom of preparing more than 100 dishes containing various ingredients. They are all dedicated to Krishna. Before eating them together, they are brought to the temple to gain its favor. Traditional language speaks of "preparing a mountain of sweets" with thanks and hope for better yields and a better year. On this day, you also buy essentials for life, such as salt or other expensive spices. Typically, it is a day of prayer to Krishna and a day of visiting temples.

 

Dya 5th - Bhai Duj

This is the last day on the calendar of the festival of light and is called fraternity day or sibling day, when the ties between siblings are especially nurtured. The brothers are obliged to visit the sisters. A special event of this day is the ritualistic feeding of a brother by a sister. This is the day when siblings celebrate together to protect each other from the dangers of life ahead of them.

This is how we got to the end of Diwali, the Festival of Lights, the greatest of Hindu holidays.

 

 

Business & pros and cons

Interestingly, like Christmas or Chinese New Year, this holiday has quite a big impact on the economy of India and other countries where this holiday is celebrated.

Suffice it to say that the value of goods sold in preparation for Diwali is $ 350,000,000. Diwali a such is responsible for approximately $ 700,000,000 in revenues. Since this holiday is also accompanied by the purchase of houshold goods, TV sets, refrigerators, washing machines and furniture, the value of the sales market in the Diwali season in India is about $ 4,000,000,000.

Two-thirds of households in India spend between $ 70 and $ 140 during the Diwali season only and inclusive for celebrating the holiday.

As you can see, even holidays, but business has to be done.

Celebrating Diwali also has its dark side. Air pollution increases dramatically during the celebration of fireworks and the burning of oil lamps. Especially in Delhi. Abrupt increases in air pollution are also recorded in other large Indian cities, such as Bangalore, Kakinada or Ludhiana.

Interestingly, Diwali is probably the only moment in the calendar when there is peace on the Indian-Pakistani border and the soldiers of both sides treat each other with sweets. It is a pleasant and positive moment in this troubled place in the Indian subcontinent.

 

I was personally charmed by two main aspects of the Diwali festival.

Firstly, decorations - "rangoli" of colored rice, flour and flower petals, and the fact that oil lamps and candles are used to decorate houses, apartments and temples.

The second aspect is the message of this holiday. The victory of good over evil, light over darkness, and science and wisdom over stupidity and ignorance.

So if you have the opportunity to visit India or Malaysia, Singapore or Bali in Indonesia, pay attention to whether you can plan your trip. Best if in October or November during the Diwali festival.

It is a beautiful five days in the calendar where Hinduism and Hindus show their warm, smiling and warm faces to the entire World.

This is one of the most beautiful moments of autumn in Asia.

Diwali shows that not only the full moon can be a cause for celebration. You remember, for example, the Harvest Festival - Mid-Autumn Festival in Asia, which I wrote about in this article.

But also the new moon, which inspires people spiritually to resist darkness, stupidity and evil.

 

So, light an oil lamp or a candle and look at the sky.

In a moment, light will overcome the darkness.

 

 

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