As monsoon rains give way to cooler evenings, excitement is in the air for the festival season, of which Diwali is the highlight. The festival usually comes between October and November, with the date changing each year. One of the most important dates in the calendar, it is a festival that is celebrated across the country with great fervour.
Often referred to as the festival of lights, Diwali is a time that marks the confluence of traditional and modern celebrations. This is a time when people spruce up homes, buy new clothes, meet loved ones and enjoy get-togethers bookended with feasting and exchanging of gifts.
While every region in India has distinctive traditions for commemorating the festival, most believe that Diwali represents the triumph of good over evil and light over darkness. Diwali is considered to be an especially auspicious time by the business community in India to start new ventures, as the festival also coincides with the Hindu New Year.
It is a five-day festival featuring different ceremonies for each day, with Laxmi Puja marking the main day. On this night, many households offer prayers to Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. The entire festival is celebrated by lighting small clay lamps known as diyas and hanging lanterns. Intricate designs known as ‘rangoli’ adorn homes using coloured powders, flower petals or even rice flour.
The days leading up to Diwali are considered a time for spring cleaning, redecorating the home, buying new clothes and jewellery, and gifts for family and friends. This is the season when people host dinner parties, outdoor food festivals and craft fairs, all of which adds to the excitement ahead for the main celebration.
During the actual festival, card parties are a common sight in many homes with a massive focus on food and sweetmeats. Traditionally, firework displays have also been a highlight of the festival. However, in recent years this has reduced greatly due to noise and air pollution apprehensions. The final day of the festival is Bhai Dooj that celebrates the bond between brothers and sisters.
Through the festival of Diwali, each region has its favourite dishes. Savoury snacks as well as sweetmeats are stars of celebrations in every household. While shops are dedicated to making these, home cooks also whip up family favourites.
Today, the charming festival of Diwali is celebrated by thousands of people in countries all around the world.