What do you know about the famous festival of lights? Diwali is one of the most popular festivals celebrated in India, and by Indians all over the globe in fact.
Diwali, the festival of lights, is one of the most popular festivals celebrated in India. Indians throughout the world celebrate this tradition in their unique way. Indians scattered in parts of Dongguan are no different.
The most common folklore behind the celebration of Diwali is the defeat of the demon king Naragasura. Diwali, the word itself, means a row of lights; and a main feature of the Diwali tradition is the light of “Diya” or lamps. Diwali is believed to be the triumph of good over bad, the realm of light over darkness. With India being as diverse as it is, everyone celebrates Diwali in different ways.
The third day is the main day of Diwali where either 21, 51, or 101 lamps are extraordinarily lit around the house, based on one’s liking.
Tina Kriplani who hails from the well-known city of Mumbai, Maharashtra said, “During Diwali we brighten up our temples, offices, and homes.” Since moving to Dongguan she has tried to bring the celebration into her home here by decorating it with flowers and “Diyas” (traditional lamps filled with oil and lit using a wick and oil—now people use even tealight candles as it’s easier) and “Torans” (a hanging decoration on the main door, the altar, and other places in the house, made from real or artificial flowers and other decorative items). Tina said “We start thoroughly cleaning our homes even weeks before the day of Diwali and prepare new clothes to adorn ourselves with on the day of celebration, and on the day we make delicious food, sharing the joy with friends by eating together.”
The Tiwari family who have been in Dongguan since 2008 have brought the tradition from their home in Rajasthan, India, into their home here. Like few regions in the north of India, there, festivities last five days commencing with Dhan Teras where traditionally folks buy some sort of metal, or even gold, followed by Chota (small) Diwali on the second day. The third day is the main day of Diwali where either 21, 51, or 101 lamps are extraordinarily lit around the house, based on one’s liking. The day after is celebrated as “Annakut” and the final day is a celebration of the brother. The girl of the family celebrates her brother, for his wellbeing, and this is called “Bhai Dooj.”
Ramya, whose parents are from Tamil Nadu and Andhra, aptly describes the celebrations of Diwali down south, where a feast including meat is part of the festivities, unlike in the north where mostly vegetarian food is made during Diwali. An early morning ritual of massaging the hair with oil and then taking a head bath, followed by new clothes, prayers, pulling crackers, delicious food cooked at home, and visits to friends’ homes to share sweets (homemade at most households), sums up the activities of a common Diwali day in the southern regions of India.
On the whole, Diwali is an important time for families to come together and remember their roots, their culture, and doing so—even so far away from home—instills the knowledge of traditions for the generations to come.
Diwali is also the time where the Indian community comes together to throw a party and embrace the light and love among each other by means of celebrating. Wishing everyone a happy and safe Diwali this November!
If you fancy getting hands-on this Diwali, try out Soorya’s recipe for coconut barfi.
FRESH COCONUT BARFI
1 cup fresh grated coconut
1/2 cup sugar
1-2 drops food coloring (orange) – optional
Unsalted butter for greasing tray
Mix the sugar and coconut together in a pan and start to heat up the pan. Stir the mixture continuously until the sugar melts and the mixture leaves the sides of the pan. Add food coloring and stir for one minute.
Grease the tray with butter and spread the mixture onto it and level it out. Allow it to cool and set for about half an hour before cutting it into pieces. You could even add nuts or dried fruit to the mix in the pan if you like, for something a little extra.