Saturday, November 6, 2010
The Festival of Lights: Diwali
Today is the second day of Diwali (three more to go!), the largest festival in India celebrated by all religions. Pesident Obama has chosen an auspicious time to be visiting India and should see the fireworks at night that explode in fizzy sparks and swirls to ward off evil spirits. Diwali means "cluster of lights" and the return of light is what the festival is all about. Diwali, also called Deepavali, celebrates the triumph over darkness. On the eve of the festival rows of small clay oil lamps called diya are lit and placed at the entrance to homes to welcome Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity. The holiday also celebrates a Hindu legend. Rama's beautiful wife had been aducted by the demon King Ravana and held captive in Sri Lanks for 14 years. With the help of Hanuman, the monkey king and his troops of sibians Sita is freed and brought back to Ayodhya, Rama's kingdom in North India. The people rejoiced at their homecoming by lighting oil lamps to illuminate a path for them to follow. Today during the fve day festival homes, temples, churches and other building are lit with electric lights and flickering oil lamps and people exchange gifts and boxes of sweets. Elaborate meals are served to guests with lots of rich creamy kormas thickened with ground amonds, paneer cheese curries, puffy deep-fried poori breads and fragrant pilafs all reflecting the hosts hope for abundance in the coming year. The festival is all about feasting and fun and feels like Christmas and New Years Eve rolled into one. Let there be light in the world.