Diwali is not only a celebration of the season, but also an opportunity to reflect on your family’s past.
Diwali is one of the highly celebrated festivals in India and as Indians are present in many different countries across the globe, the festival is celebrated worldwide. As Indian households are preparing to celebrate a restriction-free Diwali in 2022, there is a high expectation for the business to enjoy a sharp boom in sales. It is anticipated that the festive season in 2022 will witness around $32 billion in spending from Indian households on many different products.
It is around the corner, and we all are getting geared up for it. Symbolizing the spiritual victory of light over darkness and good over evil, Diwali is a celebration of the day Rama returned to Ayodhya with his wife Sita and his brother Lakshmana after defeating the demon Ravana in Lanka and serving fourteen years of exile. However, in addition to the traditional festivities, there are a lot of unique and exciting Diwali traditions in India that you need to experience. Here’s a look at the five of them.
West Bengal: Kali Puja, Diwali in West Bengal coincides with Kali Puja or Shyama Puja, which takes place at night. People offer Goddess Kali fish, meat, sweets, lentils, rice and hibiscus flowers on this day. Also, a day before the Kali Puja, Bengalis follow the Bhoot Chaturdashi ritual to keep evil powers at bay by lighting up fourteen diyas (earthen lamps) at home.
Odisha: Kaunriya KathiOne of India’s most culturally diverse states, Odisha, also celebrates Diwali differently. During Kaunriya Kathi, the people of Odisha burn jute sticks to invite their ancestors, who are said to descend from heaven on Diwali. The burning of jute sticks is often accompanied by a prayer, “Badabadua Ho Andhaare Aasa, Aalua Re Jao (Ancestors, come in darkness and go back along the lighted path)”.
Punjab: Bandi Chhor DivasBandi Chhor Divas is a Sikh celebration that commemorates the day Guru Hargobind rescued 52 kings from Gwalior Fort, whom Mughal Emperor Jahangir had detained. The day falls in autumn and often coincides with Diwali. It is marked by the lighting of homes and Gurdwaras, celebratory marches and langar (community kitchen).
Varanasi: Dev Deepawali, or the Diwali of Gods, is observed widely in Varanasi. It is believed that gods and goddesses come down to take a dip in the holy Ganges during this time. Temples in Varanasi are decorated with earthen lamps and rangolis. The ritual takes place on the full moon of the Kartika month and fifteen days after Diwali.
Goa: Celebrating Lord Krishna during Diwali, locals in Goa celebrate God Krishna, who beat the demon Narkasur. During the festival, it’s common to witness enormous busts of this demon on the streets, some of which are ignited with fireworks to signify light prevailing over darkness. Sweets and food are distributed, and locals adorn their houses with lights and make colourful designs on the floor.
Diwali turn blissful in South India
Puducherry, lovingly called Pondi, is a delightful little place near Chennai. It has a very laid back vibe, and is a great place to visit in October when the weather is just about right. When here, surfing is an unmissable experience, other than the many wonderful cafes and restaurants, where you can dig into delectable French, Konkani and South Indian specialties
Diwali in Australia
Australia has a growing population of citizens and residents with Indian subcontinental heritage, meaning Diwali celebrations take place in capital cities and many regional centres. Tara Rajkumar OAM, a distinguished dancer and choreographer based in Melbourne, says the festival’s profile has grown in recent decades. “When I arrived in Australia in 1983, Deepavali was celebrated at home or among small groups, but now it’s more widely accepted,” Ms Rajkumar says. The increase in migration from the subcontinent has a lot to do with this, and Deepavali is being recognized as the most important festival of the Hindu calendar.
Now there are Deepavali activities held across Australia. From Melbourne’s Federation Square to airports, we can see signs of celebration.
Celebrating Tihar in Nepal
For the Nepali community, Diwali is known as Tihar. Held over five days, it includes celebrations dedicated to animals like crows, dogs and cows. The first day, known as Yamapanchak or “Kag Tihar”, is dedicated to crows, whose scavenging is said to help people keep their houses and surroundings clean. The second day is known as “Kukur Tihar” and is dedicated to dogs, who are revered for their loyalty. Dogs are given a bath, worshipped and pampered with a delicious meal on the day.
“Gai Tihar”, which usually takes place on the third day, is dedicated to cows, who are considered sacred and a symbol of motherhood.
Generally, on the fourth day, known as “Goru Tihar”, Nepalis honour the oxen which help farmers till the land. On the same day, the Newar people of the Kathmandu Valley and surrounding areas observe “Mha Puja”, which means “worship of the self”.
The final day is called “Bhai Tika” and is dedicated to siblings. Brothers sit as their sisters go around with oil and water which are said to protect them from Yama, the god of death.
Bandi Chhor Diwas
Bandi Chhor Diwas is a holiday that’s often referred to as the “Sikh Diwali”, explains Gurinder Kaur, an experienced festival organiser from Australia’s Sikh community. Also known as the “Celebration of Freedom”, it commemorates the release of the sixth Sikh guru, Guru Hargobind, from a Gwalior prison in the 17th century. When the guru was about to be released, he requested the ruling Mughal Emperor Jahangir for the liberation of 52 other imprisoned kings.
The emperor agreed to release all kings so long as they could hold onto the cloak of Guru Hargobind. Accordingly, he had a cloak made with 52 cloth tails.
Bandi means ‘prisoner’ and Chhor means ‘liberation’. The main message of the day is that the guru took a stand for not only himself but for the human rights of others as well.
Never Miss This Diwali Foods
This is a name for all of the Indian sweets and desserts.
While sweets are an important part of the culture all year round there are a number of specialty Diwali mithai for the festival.
This Diwali food is a light and flaky dessert pastries. Chirote are stuffed with a sugary filling, deep fried, and usually served drizzled with syrup.
Creamy sweets that can be served by themselves or with a selection of other mithai.
Barfi are a white creamy square made with condensed milk, sugar and nuts. They are cooked together until they solidify then cut into squares.
Small pastry pockets that are stuffed with poppy seeds, grated coconut, sugar, nuts and cardamom.
These traditional Indian snacks are common around the region during Diwali.
Samosas are small pockets of pastry, usually shaped into a triangle, stuffed with minced meat, peas, lentils and other vegetables.
Mawa is a thick dried milk product common in the area of Rajasthan where these desserts originate.
These small pastries are stuffed with a combination of mawa, nuts, cardamom sugar and often drizzled with syrup to serve.
Another Diwali food prepared in the Indian subcontinent are laddoos.
These are ball shaped sweets made with chickpea flour, wheat semolina and coconut.
A common fruit in Nepal, this is often candied and shared with friends and family during the Diwali festival.
Particularly in its native Nepal, with the fruits themselves being around an inch in diameter with a tart, sour flesh which is white, with a green and brown skin.
A sweet that is often cut into diamond shapes and decorated with edible silver colouring. Kaju Katli translates as cashew slice.
It is made with cream, sugar and ground cashews, which are made into a smooth paste and then cooked on a flat tray or dish.
A Diwali dessert that is most commonly found in the northern states of India, soan papdi is made with chickpea flour, sugar and milk.
A dessert that is often found in northern India, gajar halwa is made with grated carrots.
They are combined with sugar, milk and water before they are cooked in ghee.
The dessert is also sometimes garnished with almonds or other chopped nuts.
Records of this sweet have actually been found in medieval India. Gulab Jamun is made with curdled milk and a little flour which are kneaded into a dough.
The date for the festival of lights changes each year, however, Diwali usually takes place on the day of the new moon or Amavasy, which is holy to Hindus and considered the darkest night of the year.
Rituals and preparations for Diwali begin days or weeks in advance, after the festival of Dussehra which precedes Diwali by around 20 days.