By Riya Mehrotra
Diwali is one of the biggest Hindu festivals, which is celebrated with great enthusiasm not only in India but in many other countries as well. Celebrations, family gatherings, worship of Goddess Kali and Lakshmi and playing games together make this day special. Different regions and beliefs have their own reasons for celebrating Diwali and this is what the festival is all about.
In Bengal, Odisha and parts of eastern India, Diwali is a unique relationship. Bengali celebrate the festival with the Kali Puja and offer meat, fish, and hibiscus flowers, among other things, to the goddess. The puja takes place overnight in the various farads that are established across the region. Kalighat and Dakshinwar temples in Kolkata have a grand celebration. In Odisha, people worship their ancestors in heaven. To get their blessings, they burn jute sticks and hope for luck. This tradition is called Kauriya Kathi. They also worship Goddess Lakshmi and Kali and Lord Ganesha. Also in Assam, the festival is celebrated with great enthusiasm and people worship the deities Kali and Lakshmi.
There is not much difference in the way that North Indians and South Indians celebrate Diwali. In Tamil Nadu, lamps are lit and offerings are made to the deity. Deepavali Legiyam is also prepared with herbs to help digest rich festive foods and desserts. In rural Karnataka, cultural programs and competitions are held apart from Lakshmi Puja while in urban areas, Goddess Lakshmi and Lord Vishnu are worshiped. In Kerala, Diwali is a family affair with families who welcome guests and celebrate by lighting oil lamps. It begins with a ritual oil bath and a sumptuous meal.
Since a large Indian population resides in Australia, Diwali is celebrated within the Indian communities of Sydney and Melbourne. The celebration of Union Square on Diwali in Melbourne has become a huge celebration in Australia. It features a large display of fireworks, traditional Indian dances, and cultural and artistic performances offering live entertainment.
Since Indians are a large population in the United States, Diwali is a holiday celebrated in the cities of Illinois, New Jersey, Texas and California. Temples host Diwali nights where priests perform prayers followed by a communal dinner. As anywhere in the world, large family gatherings and candy exchanges are part of the festival.
Diwali is a public holiday in Singapore. With a large Indian population, the streets are full of roses, lights, and beats. People get dressed and offer prayers and lights. Storefronts are decorated in shades of red and gold and the scent of falling flowers and incense fills the air. People wear their fingernails where prayers are held to thank God.
Hindu Mauritanians celebrate Diwali by cleaning and decorating their homes, putting on new clothes and distributing sweets and appetizers, as elsewhere. As soon as the sun goes down, clay lamps are lit and colorful garlands are placed for decoration. Not only Diwali, Mauritians celebrate Ugadi, Christmas, Chinese Spring Festival, Ganesh Chaturthi and Holi too.
Since Lord Ram is said to belong to Ayodhya, Diwali is celebrated in the north with great enthusiasm and is one of the biggest festivals. In Punjab, the festival marks the arrival of winter, and while Sikhs celebrate in Gurdwaras, Punjabi Hindus worship Goddess Lakshmi. In Uttar Pradesh, celebrations occur on a large scale, especially in Varanasi on the banks of the Ganga River. The river sparkles with lit earthen lamps floating in the water as the area echoes with chants and prayers. Ganga aarti is a sight worth seeing
And Dev Deepavali follows Diwali. It is said that the gods descend on earth to bathe in the Ganges on this day.
In Gujarat, Diwali marks the end of the year. The festival begins with Vaag Baras, Dhanteras, Kali Chaudash and Diwali and then concludes with Bestu Varas, which is also known as New Year’s Day. He is followed by Bhai Paige. For the people of Maharashtra, festivities begin at Vasu Paras in honor of the cows. Dhanteras are called Dhanatrayodashi, as the ancient medicine god Dhanvantari is worshiped and then followed by Narak Chatudarshi. Maharashtras also pray to Goddess Lakshmi and celebrate Diwali Cha Padva, to celebrate the love of husband and wife. The festivities end with Bhav Bij and Tusli Vivah, which marks the beginning of marriages.