Diwali is tomorrow! In this post, two of our guides, Jitu and Balaji, explain the history of Diwali, why it’s important, how they celebrate and how it is celebrated by Jains. To learn more join us for our Diwali Dharavi Tour and Celebration next year!
Diwali is very commonly recognised as the festival of light among many people. According to hindu legend, the months of Ashwin and Karthik (October and November), when Diwali is celebrated, have the darkest night in the whole year. This Hindu festival is one of the most important festivals for people from India. Diwali is a celebration to bring prosperity, wealth and good health to the family. It is celebrated jointly with neighbours and friends for five days with new clothes, sweets, gifts, and fireworks. On this special occasion people also buy new homes, jewellery, cars and start new businesses.
A week before Diwali, preparation starts with a white wash to houses and lots of shopping. Everything is busier before the celebration. All around there are new street shops selling clothes, sweets, oil lamps, and gifts. This leads to huge vehicles traffic on road with waves of people on the street for their shopping and on the way back to home in the evening time.
Diwali, from its first days, we can see streets with a colourful art (rangoli) on every door step along with numbers of oil lamps (diya) lighting the entire street and houses, and people with new traditional clothes, which brings the real energy and excitement of Diwali festival. In the evening, there is the fragrance of incense and spiritual prayers (pooja) for goddess Laxmi. She is the main deity of Diwali and is worshiped for wealth and prosperity. Later, after prayers, there is an exchange of traditional made milk sweets (peda) and people start with fireworks till midnight.
Behind the Diwali festival, there is an interesting ancient storey of an exiled king from the Hindu kingdom of Ayodya, Ram, with his wife of 14 years, Sita. Sita gets kidnapped by the demon king of Lanka (Sri Lanka), Ravana, and Ram brings her back to home town after defeating Ravana, and therefore, Diwali is celebrated.
Since I (Jitu) am from a merchant caste family this is when we worship and perform pooja for Godess Laxmi (godess of prosperity and wealth). It gives me a feeling of new and beginnings. Diwali is really important to me personally because I have a large family though we don’t get enough time together as everyone in my family is busy working in different professions. It is this time of year when we come together to greet each other and show respect to elders in family and make affection to young ones.
Mom is quite busy making different kind of sweets me and my brother help her in doing so. My dad makes sure that our house looks colourful and bright for Diwali as you never know which one of your relatives could show up anytime! During Diwali we also become creative to help him paint walls of our house; lots of colourful electric lighting looks spectacular on windows if viewed from the down the streets. On the 4th day (new year), we make sure we wear the best clothes.
The most exceptional thing about our family is that we are a Jain family. This means we avoid crackers unlike our many Hindu friends. We used to hate this as kid! Nonviolence towards any living thing on earth is the core principle of Jain philosophy. Fireworks can kill many flying insects and organisms so in our family it is forbidden. Our dad promises us to get something valuable for me and my brother instead of buying crackers. Diwali is also important for the Jain community because Mahavira (the founder of Jainism) attained Nirvana (or Moksha) on this day at Pavapuri on Oct. 15, 527 BCE, on Chaturdashi of Kartika. Jain monks fast on Diwali. Fasting symbolizes an apology for the souls that were harmed during the festival celebrations.
Light a lamp of love;
Bomb the chain of sorrow;
Shoot a rocket of prosperity;
And fire a flowerpot of happiness!
Wish you and your family a Sparkling Diwali!