This year the Diwali Festival, also known as Deepavali, meaning clay lamps, starts on Nov. 11. Depending on if you’re Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh or Jain, it could be a two to five-day non-stop celebration.
Diwali is a festival of lights symbolizing the victory over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, good over evil and hope over despair. Candles, oil lamps and strings of lights are lit and fireworks are set off. It is the biggest and brightest festival of the year. Families and communities get together in the morning, eat traditional breakfast sweets, go to temple and then have large gatherings for dinner at night. Some families travel from house to house to celebrate everywhere. They dance together to lively music and get new outfits to wear to celebrate this joyous time.
The food is traditional Indian cuisine, consisting of sweet and spicy, rice and wheat products, made with all natural ingredients. Popular items include karasev, omapodi, wheat halwa and hard, soft and flavorful types of mysorepak, just to name a few.
Different religions have different backgrounds for why they celebrate this time, but the common theme is gods and goddesses helping common people. For Hindus, the festival commemorates Lord Rama’s return to his kingdom Ayodhya after completing his 14-year exile. Buddhists take this as the time to mark the anniversary of the Emperor Ashoka’s conversion to Buddhism. Sikhs celebrate the conquering of the Asura Naraka, a king of Assam who imprisoned many people. It is believed that Krishna freed the prisoners. Jainism honor Mahavira (Lord Mahavir), who established the central spiritual ideas of Jainism. Many Jains celebrate the Festival of Lights in his honor.
In northern India, they celebrate the harvest season coming to an end and anticipate the new season’s start. the day before Diwali marks the killing of the demon Narakasura; this is good winning over evil. For businessmen, this marks the end of the financial year and the hope for new opportunities. There are many reasons to celebrate this joyous time.
This year, the Arya Samaj of Long Island will hold its annual fundraising event in Garden City on Sunday, Nov. 15, at 6:30 p.m. It will be an evening of singing Hindi songs and celebrating with a Deepavali Gala dinner. Visit www.aryasamajoflongisland.org/events.html for more information. The Hindu Temple Society of North America in Flushing has morning, afternoon, evening and night services and celebrations all five days accompanied with a host of food afterward. Everyone is welcome to come and go as they please.
Whatever the reason, it’s a time to come together, be positive and filled with light. Fireworks will be continuously set off and a reminder of the light of life.