Celebrating Deepavali – the Festival of Lights!

Happiness is in the air, let us move from darkness to light
It’s Deepavali everywhere!


Deepavali (தீபாவளி) is just around the corner! The Festival of Lights falls on the 15th day of Kartika, the holiest month in the Hindu calendar — this year, it’s celebrated by Hindu families worldwide on 27 October.

While it is a festival celebrated by all Hindus, there are variations in the practices and ways it is celebrated in different regions with its origins from India. Here’s a quick guide to the regional differences in the way the Festival of Lights is celebrated!

Background
Deepavali is rooted in a fusion of harvest festivals in ancient India. Diyas (clay lamps) with wicks were a common sight as they are regarded as symbols for various parts of the sun — the cosmic giver of light and energy to all life! The lighted diyas keep the celebration of this sacred time burning bright. All variations of the celebrations are linked by this common symbol: the triumph of light over darkness, and good over evil. Traditional diyas may have since been replaced by modern lightbulbs in electrifying colours, but the significance of its light remains. People light firecrackers, gifts are exchanged and pooja (prayers) raised to various deities across regions.

North
In North India, this festival is also known as Diwali. It is culturally linked to the Indian epic Ramayana which tells the journey of Lord Rama of Ayodhya who rose to claim his rightful throne after 14 years of exile by defeating the demon king Ravana.To celebrate his victorious return, people adorned their homes with…you guessed it, beautifully lighted diyas!

Preparations for Diwali begin long before the actual day, and the festive cheer lasts up to five days! Hindus in North India, however, celebrate it a day after their Southern counterparts. Indian attire in the most vibrant colours are worn — a dhoti (a rectangular piece of unstitched cloth wrapped around the legs and knotted at the waist) or kurta and pyjama for men, and the sari paired with a choli (blouse) for women.

Traditional sari and choli, as well as kurta and pyjama outfits worn by Hindu women and men during Deepavali respectively. 

Image credits: Shutterstock

You can expect to see bursts of vibrant colour everywhere during Deepavali, especially in rangolis where simple or intricate patterns are created with flower petals, sand, coloured rice powder and grains in the home or doorways! Designs may borrow elements from local mythology & are usually created by the women and children of the household.

Just look at this breath-taking rangoli!

Image credits: Shutterstock

It is undeniable that a lot of hard work goes into creating rangolis. Each beautifully handcrafted creation is truly a sight to behold, and the effort certainly doesn’t go unnoticed!

South
For Hindus in South India, Deepavali is seen more as a celebration of the end of evil and the beginning of good. This is attributed to the myth that tells of a cruel demon king, Naraka (also known as Narakasura), whose dark and oppressive regime had people praying upon Lord Krishna — a manifestation of the one of the overarching supreme deities, Lord Vishnu — to save them. Their prayers were answered when Lord Krishna eventually slayed the demon in battle! Thus, Deepavali is also known in the South as Naraka Chathurdasi (Naraka’s 14th day), the day of the demon’s death and when darkness was dispelled by light.

On the morning of Deepavali, many Hindu families in South India wake up early to have a rejuvenating medicate oil bath. However, before they can do so, the oldest member of the household will have to place three drops of oil on their forehead. This oil bath ritual is believed to have equal significance to bathing in the sacred Ganges River!

During Deepavali, one of the first sweet snacks you’ll see being made is the athi resam (the supreme taste), a fried round puff of sugar and ground fermented rice flour. Savoury snacks such as chakli and even sweet meats like halwa, burfi, laddu and more are offered to guests. Some Hindus may choose to abstain from meat due to the sanctity of Deepavali.

Top to bottom: Traditional Indian savoury snack chakli and sweet meat burfi.

Image credits: Shutterstock

Did you know? Rangoli also goes by different names in different parts of India! In the Southern regions like Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, it is known as Kolam or golam (or kalam in Kerala) and muggu respectively. It is also referred to as alpana in West Bengal. Regardless of wherever you choose to go during this festive season, you will be treated to a visual feast with unique rangolis in splashes of vibrant colour!

How should I wish my Hindu friends?
“Happy Deepavali” or “Happy Diwali” is appropriate. If you wish to light up your well wishes with a touch of creativity, you can download this image that we have created specially for you to send to your Hindu friends!

In doing so, we want to wish all our Hindu friends in India, Singapore and all over the world a Happy Deepavali! May you and your family be blessed with a new year that shines as bright as the lights during this festive season!

References
IndiansinKuwait 2019, Significance of Oil Bath during Diwali
Suhaag 2019,
Diwali legends: The stories of Rama, Ravana, Krishna and Narakasura
Melwani, L 2019, Diwali,
The Triumph of Light over Darkness
Rangoli.ie 2019,
A Brief Introduction to the Art of Rangoli
Religionworld.in 2018,
Naraka Chaturdashi : Story and Origin
Singapore Infopedia 2014,
Deepavali
Singapore Tourism Board 2019,
Deepavali
The Indian Rose 2018,
Diwali: Can you eat meat? Diwali dietary restrictions
Times of India 2019, Deepavali  ⁠—
the festival of lamps, sweets, gifts and faith
Utsavepedia

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