Diwali decorations used in homes and workspaces
I have been fortunate enough to celebrate the wondrous Diwali Festival a number of times since traveling and living in India. Each Diwali has been a spectacular event shared with friends, friends who are like family and colleagues who are like family as well.
While staying in India I try my best to immerse myself into any experience that will connect me to this culture that I find so fascinating. Diwali is an assault on the senses and a true experience of India and its people in all of its glory.
I have celebrated Diwali in different regions of India with a host of locals varying in cultures, social backgrounds and beliefs and the one thing that remains the same amongst all is that this is a time of coming together, giving and celebrating good over evil. The colours, the lights and the warmth and serenity of the festival are personified by the people that make it come to life.
My one piece of advice for those who have never been to India is - nothing is ever what you expect it to be, so don’t think too much, just go, do and enjoy. Each Diwali has been as unprepared and unexpected as the last, yet each one has given me another small glimpse into this wonderful culture. If I was to summarise all of my Diwali experiences so far, for me Diwali signifies parties, pujas (worship), and overindulging in hefty amounts of Punjabi cuisine.
Diwali is seen to be one of the most significant celebrations in the Indian culture. At Diwali, Hindus celebrate the legend of God Rama and his wife Sita's returning to their kingdom in northern India after being exiled following the defeat of demon king Ravanna. For many Diwali also honours Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth.
Pictures of Hindu Gods
It is said that at Diwali, the goddess Lakshmi visits her devotees and bestows gifts and blessings upon each of them. To welcome Goddess Lakshmi, houses are cleaned, decorated and delicious sweets are prepared as offerings.
Shrine of goddess Lakshmi and God Ganesh surrounded by a marigold garland
Diwali itself means "series of lights" and during the festival houses and shops are decorated with candles and lights. Because of this Diwali is by far my favourite time of year to be in India. The homes are strewn with dazzling lights, streams of them cascade over houses like waterfalls, glistening through the night. Even the smallest homes will keep a candle glowing through the night.
Indian home decorated with lights for the festival
The glittering lights are meant to represent light over darkness and the Hindu belief that good will always triumph over evil. Traditional earthen diyas are lit, and colourful patterns are created on the floor using coloured rice or powder known as Rangoli, it is also traditional for homes to be cleaned and new clothes to be worn.
A young girl paints a Rangoli outside her home, along with little footprints to lead the Goddess Luxmi to her door.
Traditional Diwali Diyas
Rangoli Flower Display made using rose, marigold and jasmine flower petals.
It smelled divine!
In the days leading up to Diwali the markets and Bazaars come alive. Families shop for gifts for one another, marigold vendors line the streets and the sweet shops hustle and bustle selling their tinsel wrapped sugary ghee filled treats.
A small band livens up the festively decorated fruit and vegetable market
Marigold flower vendor selling individual marigolds ready to make rangoli’s
or traditional flower garlands.
Laddus are sweets made of flour milk and a lot of sugar. These are often given as an offering to the gods at Diwali time and are bought by the KG as a gift for friends and family.
Diwali is a time for giving, not only for your family and loved ones but those who are less fortunate than yourselves, perhaps those you have never even met. It’s a time for charity. The act of charity and giving is ingrained in the Hindu and Sikh cultures, you will notice this when you visit their places of worship.
However, there is something magical about the season of Diwali and many families come together to contribute, donate and give food and water to those in need outside of the wonderfully decorated temples.
Prayers to the gods and goddesses are performed during Diwali to give thanks for the celebration. I have been welcomed in with open arms to homes, workspaces and Mandir’s (a place for Hindu worship) and have joined Puja rituals and shown my gratitude to the gods and goddess deities for this celebration of good over evil to give thanks for such warm heartfelt welcomes into the community.
Once respects, blessings, and thanks are bestowed to the gods, families come together to share gifts and feast. One of my fondest Diwali memories was when I shared a celebration with a wonderful colleague of mine Mayuri and her family.
I had no idea what to expect having not spent Diwali with a family before but unsurprisingly I was warmly welcomed as one of the family by Mayuri, her husband, and in-laws. Dressed in my fitted blue and gold embellished Punjabi suit I was greeted with a stack of aloo paranthas (a bread dish) and a cup of chai.
Little did I know the festive dishes wouldn’t stop there! I was stuffed after my rich butter topped(!) parantha but the food kept coming, channa puri, chole bhature, you name it. The day was filled with feast after feast of deliciously rich Punjabi food mixed with west Bengali biryani (a rice dish) and an assortment of sweet treats. It was safe to say my suit was uncomfortably tight after such a lavished feast.
It took some time to recover from the food coma and after an hour or so of shut-eye, we were ready to start the evening celebrations! Diwali is marked by huge firework displays, which are supposed to reflect the celebrations of Lord Rama's return and so the evening was spent with family and friends of all ages lighting sparklers, firecrackers and watching catherine wheels twirl and clash among the night sky. Spectators joined from the whole community, bringing along gifts, treats and more explosive crackers. The display continued until the early hours of the morning… as did the continuous feasting of sweets.
Spectators joined from the whole community, bringing along gifts, treats and more explosive crackers. The display continued until the early hours of the morning… as did the continuous feasting of sweets.
This truly is a festival filled with great meaning, time with family and friends, wonderful food, and beautiful traditions. I'm so thankful for my Diwali experiences and the memories I have from this very special holiday.
Fresh flower garlands and brightly coloured imitation flowers
Garlands for the home
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