Next week is the five day festival of Diwali, the main festival of Hindus all over India. Diwali is the festival of light, celebrating the triumph of goodness over darkness. At a a deeper level, it is to celebrate the triumph of the Light within.
(The first time I ever heard of Diwali was in an episode of ‘The Office,’ when Kelly brought the whole office to a community Diwali celebration and the inevitable Michael Scott mayhem ensued.)
Diwali literally translates to a “row of lamps,” as this festival celebrates when Rama defeated the demon Ravana and came back to his kingdom after 14 years in exile. Members of Krishna’s kingdom lit rows of lamps to welcome him home. Today celebrants light clay oil lamps, wear new clothes, and distribute sweets to friends and family.
The shopfronts of Pondy have put up glittering displays to lure shoppers inside. Alas, just like Christmas, the real meaning behind the holiday has gotten bogged down in commercialized consumerism, with fireworks, toys, sparkly saris, the works.
I was surprised to learn that Diwali is also an official holiday in not only India but Nepal, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Fiji, Trinidad & Tobago, Guyana and Myanmar.
This October festival is also the end of the harvest season, and also marks the end of the fiscal year for businesses. Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity, and celebrants ask for her blessings for a good year.
I will be in Pondy for Diwali and then travel to Ooty to stay with my friend Bini for a week. Rathi and I want to put together a celebratory gathering for all of us who are far from our families this holiday season. Look for more photos of the real thing soon.