I’ve been in Mumbai for 1 month now and it’s been lovely. Lots of ups and downs ofcourse but I like looking at the ups than the downs. Its Diwali tomorrow and its definitely one of the brightest and biggest festivals of India. Everyone is in a happy mood, not only because of the long weekend Diwali off but also because it’s a time to celebrate all the wonderful things in life with friends and family.
Historically Diwali is seen as the beginning of the harvest festival, but over a period of time different stories and legends have defined the festival differently. Some believe Diwali to be a celebration of the marriage between goddess Laxmi and Lord Vishnu, while in Bengal goddess Kali is prayed to on the day of Diwali. The most famous of the stories ofcourse is that of celebrating the home coming of Lord Rama with wife Sita and brother Laxman from his 14 year long exile after defeating Ravana. To celebrate his homecoming the people of Ayodhya lit lamps (diyas) and burst firecrackers which also symbolizes the victory of good over evil. In Jainism too Diwali is important as it marks the day when Buddha attained Nirvana.
The five day of the festival begins with Dhanteras and ends with Govardhan puja. On the day of dhanteras the custom is to buy something, as ‘dhan’ means wealth, so you must spend your dhan to get more dhan! As a kid that always worked for me because my parents would not only buy something for the house but also bring my sister and me gifts. That brings us to another important part of Diwali- Gifts. Usually gifts include a big box of sweets or dry fruits(like cashews, dates, badam etc) or chocolates or diyas! people go door to door (mainly family and friends) with gifts to wish them a very happy Diwali. It’s strange because sometimes you wouldn’t meet them otherwise throughout the year but on Diwali you would definitely go. I consider it a good custom because sometimes people would go and renew their ties with old friends or ask for forgiveness, to start a new beginning.
So how do you celebrate this new beginning of fraaaandship.. you gamble! Well you can celebrate new friendships by doing other things also but in most families (atleast in my family) playing ‘teen patti’ (the Indian version of poker) is a big part of Diwali. There is also a legend behind this. Apparently if you gamble on the night of Diwali, you would prosper throughout the year! I guess you also need to win that night.. losing would definitely not help. Nonetheless it’s a lot of fun and as my landlord would say it’s the spirit of it that matters!
While some families gamble other families do Laxmi puja. I think all families do that actually before they start gambling or bursting crackers and distributing gifts. Laxmi puja is one of the most important parts of Diwali. Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth is prayed to with the hope that she would bestow her blessing in the form of wealth, knowledge, new hope and happiness.
As a kid, Diwali was all about fire crackers for me, which also brings us to the flipside of this celebration. I remember my father would bring back bags full of crackers to be burst on Diwali. I could never burst them myself, as I was too scared but once I tried (you know trying to be all cool) to light a bomb and I thought I had lit it but it didn’t burst. So I went to get a closer look and it burst on my face. Funny right! but my eyes got hurt and I honestly thought it was the end of my sight. Thankfully nothing happened but it made me realize how dangerous these things are. It’s not only that it’s dangerous it is also made by small children. The major industry where children are employed is the fireworks industry. If I could get hurt by bursting that one firecracker imagine the extent to which these children get hurt while making them. Children work in these industries with no proper or guaranteed wage and because of no health and safety measures in the manufacturing industry; many of them lose their lives. These cases don’t even get reported or the owners of these industries are not arrested because of the sheer amount of money that this industry generates, and there is also of course the small fact that no one really cares about these children who are below than the most deprived sections of the country.
It was primarily because of this reason why I stopped buying or bursting crackers. And a lot of other people have done so too. Diwali as a day of celebration should not be at the cost of a child’s life.
For me Diwali has always been a day of celebration. A day, when my family would come together and celebrate the fact that we have each other in our best and in our worst. It is that time of the year when you leave behind your sorrows and fears and move forward with new hope and love. For me the significance of lighting a diya is to drive out the darkness and ignorance and spread love, hope and happiness. This time during Diwali I will not be with family, but I have friends coming from different parts of the country to celebrate with. To celebrate the new friendships formed over the past 1 month and to celebrate the good work that we are all engaged in.
So a VERY HAPPY DIWALI to all of you! Light a diya and think of all the wonderful things you have been blessed with in life, be happy and have a BLAST!!