Well lit homes, bustling markets, dressed-up people, celebratory vibes, festive air that has a mood uplifting quality – all these are tell-tale signs of the arrival of that much-awaited festival known as Diwali.
In India, from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, Diwali is celebrated in more than one way. Every community in India has its own custom-made version to celebrate this festival of lights. While the rituals may be different from region to region, the spirit of celebrating the festival- the victory of good over evil and the homecoming of Lord Rama to Ayodhya remains the same.
In the Northern part of the country, people generally go about meeting their near and dear ones and exchanging gifts and the works. “I usually prepare festive dishes during the day and we go to a relative’s place with some Diwali gifts. In the evening, after dressing up in new clothes, we light ghee and mustard oil diyas, dress up idols of Lakshmi and Ganesha and then do the aarti . The puja ends by offering the prasad of sweets to the deities. Post that, we have family dinner.” says Anita Sharma, a Delhi-based housewife.
For Eastern India, it is an auspicious time to honour Goddess Kali. And unlike the rest of the country where Goddess Lakshmi is worshipped on Diwali, Bengali community worships Kali on that day. The puja is performed post midnight and continues till the wee hours. In many families, a sacrificial goat is also offered during the puja.
However, the trends have been changing nowadays and goat sacrifice is now being substituted by vegetable offerings like sugarcane, squash etcetera. The worship of Goddess Kali during Diwali is not just limited to Bengal but is celebrated in neighbouring states of Assam and Bihar as well. In Assam, the puja is specially an important one as Kali epitomises women power.
Moving on to the Western region, for the Gujarati community, celebrations double up during Diwali. Apart from the usual Diwali celebrations, the community also gears up to celebrate the Gujarati New Year the day after Diwali. “It is a big occasion for the community when families visit their relatives to wish them happy New Year,” says Nainesh Parikh, an Ahmedabad resident.
“Diwali itself is a big festival in the state because the community is mainly a business community. On Diwali, Lakshmi puja is performed in shops and homes and festivities continue till the next two days as we ring in our new year and also celebrate Bhai Dooj.”
While gifts are exchanged on Diwali in most communities, it is on New Year that Gujaratis indulge in splurging. “The elders give the younger members of the family a lot of cash. Also, for many families it is a perfect time for an annual family get-together. The mornings are spent visiting various relatives and in the evenings, the entire extended family often goes out to celebrate in some restaurant or watch a movie,” adds Parikh.
Coming down to the lush regions of Southern India, Chandrabhushan Joshi, who basically hails from Karnataka, shared his insights about Diwali celebrations in the state.
Here’s taking a look at how Karnataka celebrates the festival of lights: In Karnataka Diwali is celebrated amidst much fanfare over a period of 5 days. The first day popularly known as ‘Yamadeepdaan, people go for Satvik Snana (bathing) followed by the aarti before staritng with the celebrations. On the second day- ‘Narkachaturdashi’, people from a certain section of the society burn effigies of demon Narakasura to mark the end of evil and despair. On the third day people generally exchange sweets and gifts on this day as a treat to Lord Vishnu. ‘Bali Padyam’ or’ Bali Pratipada & Padva marks the fourth day. The day is of great significance as on this day King Bali steps out of hell and rules the earth according to the boon given by Lord Vishnu. On the fifth day specially known as ‘Gorehabba’ in Karnataka, people share sweets, burst crackers, listen to Bhajana`s etcetera!!