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November 10, 2008

Diwali: The festival of lights

By Harsha Mishra

Junior Reporter, Youth Journalism International

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Decorative food for Diwali.
 

Harsha Mishra/Youth Journalism International

Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh, INDIA Various colors, bright atmosphere, harmonious feelings, charming greetings, delicious dishes and melodious songs are the few things that are common in every festival that is celebrated around the world.
Let it be Christmas from the West or Holi from the East. Both bring happiness, joy and enthusiasm in the lives of people.
One such festival celebrated in India is Diwali, which is often called the festival of lights.
Diwali, or Dipawali, as we call it, is celebrated according to the Indian calendar and this year it fell on October 28.
Each year, it takes place in the months of October and November every year, but the date varies according to the days of the months without a moon
.

Diwali holds this importance because it is celebrated on the day without a moon, or "amawasya," as we call it.
Even without the light from the moon, the country still shines in light due to lots and lots of candles and "diyas" lit in the homes of the people.
Winter is welcomed with this festival and begins after it. Diwali is celebrated with full enthusiasm all over India.
Preparations start a month in advance, with the whitewashing of the houses and cleaning the surroundings. Each and every corner of the house is cleaned.
New clothes are made for the members of the family, material for decoration is brought and every house is decorated. A few days before the main festival, fairs are organized at different points of time and at different places. Shopkeepers sell things like clothes, utensils, toys, sweets and decorative items and people buy them enthusiastically. The whole market gleams in the color of the festival and so do the faces of the people.
The festive atmosphere prevails for five days.
The first day is celebrated as "Dhanteras." On this day everyone goes to the market and buys new utensils. On this day, "Kuber," the god of wealth, is worshipped.
The next day is celebrated as small Diwali and "Nark Choudasi." On this day, "Yamraj," the god of death, is worshipped and the children enjoy the event by bursting crackers, or firecrackers.

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Rangoli with a tulsi (sacred) plant.

Harsha Mishra/Youth Journalism International

At this point, the preparation of the main festival is done, and on the third day, the enthusiasm is evident in the morning. The air is filled with the aroma of delicious dishes and all the families unite.
The women work together in the kitchen and men can be seen in the temple preparing for evening prayers. Boys can be seen running for crackers, and girls can be seen making designs on the floor using various colors. This design is made in every house and is called "Rangoli."
As the evening approaches, the dishes are kept in the new utensils bought on "Dhanteras" and are kept in front of family idols. The houses are lit with colored bulbs, candles and "diyas."

A diya is a small earthen bowl with oil in it. A cotton wick is lit in the oil, which is the traditional method of creating light in India, where it is believed that this kind of light kills insects and cleans the atmosphere.
The whole country bathes in light. Everyone assembles in the family temple to thank God for all the good moments that came in their lives throughout the year.
They thank the Almighty for wealth and health and pray for the same in the future. Fireworks displays are organized at various places, and people enjoy seeing the bursting crackers.
Then the process of meeting and greeting each other starts and the families visit each other until late at night, ending the beautiful festival with good wishes.
But this is not the end of the festive Diwali season. The next day is celebrated as "Goverdhan Pooja," which is a process of worshipping cows and praying for their well being, because in India they are treated as mothers.
The fifth and last day is called "Bhaiya Dooj." On this day, the sisters pray to God for the well being of their beloved brothers and in turn the brothers give them gifts. The 15th day after Diwali, or we can say the full moon day or "poornima," as we call it, is celebrated as "dev dipawali."
On this day, the River Ganges is beautifully decorated using paper diyas. People from all around the world come to have a glance at the amazingly decorated river.
Diwali means the end of evil and beginning of peace and harmony. It is believed that on Diwali, Goddess Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, enters our houses at night to give us benedictions.
In India we believe that Diwali marks the beginning of a six-month festive season which ends with Holi, celebrated in March
.

Firecrackers for Diwali.

Harsha Mishra/Youth Journalism International


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