Perhaps my favourite part of Delectable Destinations is connecting with brilliant colleagues in other countries. I’m excited to share another guest post today, this time from one of our partners in India. Renu Choudhary, pictured above, hails from Delhi and has insider access to highly unique, authentic and experiential journeys to the Indian Sub-Continent, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, Tibet & Myanmar. I am honoured to share her insight and history of the Diwali Celebrations. A part personal experience, part historical deep dive, we hope you enjoy Renu’s words!
Diwali Deepawali – Festival of Lights
Triumph of Good over Evil – My Diwali – A Trip Down Memory Lane
No other festival in India generates so much enthusiasm, excitement and nationwide celebration as Diwali does.
Personally, this beautiful festival transports me right back to my childhood days. Days of innocence, anticipation, simplicity, paying homage to age-old cultural traditions, beliefs, delicious sweet and savoury home-cooked food, new outfits and more! Everything felt magical and dreamlike during this festive period.
Our home filled with delicious aromas emanating from my Mum’s kitchen. We were making my favourite traditional sweets, and savoury snacks – Besan Ladoos, Coconut Barfi, Gulab Jamuns and Spicy Samosas accompanied by tart Tamarind and Mint Chutney.
How could I forget the gorgeous decorations all over the house? Bright sunshine yellow marigold garlands mingling with Indian Roses. The scent of fresh flowers would get infused with the fragrance of sandalwood incense which my Mum would light in preparation of evening prayers to Goddess Lakshmi to bless the family and usher in good health, prosperity and wealth.
The most magical moment of the Diwali celebrations at home was the lighting of the earthen “Diyas” (lamps). Row, upon row of twinkling lights glowing in the dark..simply breathtaking!! Alas, the “Diyas” has now largely got replaced with neon electric lights…!!
Origins & Significance
Diwali has its origins in the Sanskrit word “Deepawali”. “Deepa” means light and “Wali” means row; thus a row of lights, the festival is celebrated by lighting rows of light and celebrated on “Amayasya” or “no moon” day and ushers in the dawn of New Year as per the Hindu calendar. Celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs, and Jains, each of these groups honour some historical figure and significance.
History of the festival can be traced back to ancient India, with several legends associated with it. Many believe that Diwali is the celebration which marks Goddess Lakshmi’s wedding with Lord Vishnu.
In Bengal during Diwali, Goddess Kali is worshipped, who is the Goddess of strength. In individual homes, Ganesha is worshipped too, since he is a symbol of auspiciousness.
For Hindus, Diwali symbolises the return of Lord Ram to Ayodhya after being exiled for 14 years. When he returned, Lord Ram was welcomed home with “Diyas” (lit earthen lamps), shone throughout the kingdom.
Whatever one’s belief, it is a triumph of good over evil and heralds new positive beginnings.
Rituals | Traditions | Celebrations
The Festival of Lights does just that – light up the homes and hearts of communities all over the world.
During the five days, people’s homes are lit up by ‘Diyas’ (earthen candles or small clay lamps), and the exteriors decorated with electric lights.
Inside the home, one will find intricate Rangoli Art, which are patterns on the floor created by either rice or coloured powder. Neighbours exchange gifts, and the emphasis is often on sweets, dried fruit, and other gifts. It is also a time to share with those in need and give freely to members of the community who have little.
The air is rich with the smell of incense, the acrid smell of burning crackers, and the aromas coming from the kitchen. The celebration features various rich savoury and sweet dishes, and while eating out is popular, families will mostly prepare food at home for when guests arrive to exchange gifts and watch fireworks.
Diwali celebrated over five days:
- DAY ONE: People clean their homes and shop for gold or kitchen utensils to help bring good fortune.
- DAY TWO: People decorate their homes with clay lamps and create design patterns called rangoli on the floor using coloured powders or sand.
- DAY THREE: On the primary day of the festival, families gather together for Lakshmi puja, a prayer to Goddess Lakshmi, followed by mouth-watering feasts and firework festivities.
- DAY FOUR: This is the first day of the new year when friends and relatives visit with gifts and best wishes for the season.
- DAY FIVE: “Bhaiya Dooj” – A festival which celebrates the love and familial bonds between brothers and sisters. The festival celebrated with the exchange of gifts, feasting and exchange of good wishes between them.
May this festival of lights bring you peace, prosperity, success, health and great happiness!
Carol Ketelson is the owner and operator of Delectable Destinations LLC. Dedicated to planning, coordinating and curating customized group tours to hand-picked destinations. As an experienced travel planner, Carol’s customized itineraries, specialized tours and off-the-beaten-path experiences create memorable journeys for her small groups of singles, couples, and solo travellers, seeking exceptional trips into the culture and cuisine of destinations around the world. Spring and Fall bookings invite travellers to taste delectable local cuisine, culturally rich traditions and mesmerizing sights. For over 12 years, Carol’s tours have captured the true essence of Tuscany, the Amalfi Coast, Puglia, France, Spain, Ireland and India.
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