Saturday, October 29, 2011

Diwali or Deepavali is a five day long Hindu festival.  The five days of the festival are as follows: Dhan Theras, Choti Diwali, Lakshmi Puja on Diwali, Diwali Padwa & Govardhan Puja, Bhai Duj. Each day is significant because of stories and rituals attached to it, and have a set of traditions that are followed. 

On the whole, the significance of Diwali is that, conventions have changed but the rudiments remain the same. It is celebrated as the overcoming of good over evil, as Rama (the Hindu deity) returned from Vanvas (exile) of 14 years.

Simply put, through the years, Diwali has become a much awaited holiday, but the real-deal of this festival is disappearing.  The rituals that were supposed to be strictly pursued are now customized according to individual time, space and religious awareness.

Diwali, the festival of lights.
Photograph by Heena Makhijani

The basic rituals of Diwali are decorating the house with traditional designs called ‘Rangoli’, lighting lamps and candles through the night and buying gold and silver. Whilst, India is a well diverse country, so are its people. Through the years, each state has its own customs; each minority adds or eliminates one or two norm, giving Diwali a new element. With so many alterations, has the touch of Diwali’s true spirit lost?

Soniya Kishnani, a student of commerce and economic, disagrees “Yes, things have changed. Diwali might have lost one or two traditional elements, but this constant change, keeps it updated with the younger generation. If you want the festival to be celebrated forever, you have to go with the flow”

With lots of elements of truth, the above statement justifies the change Diwali is going through. Why it is okay to replace traditionally ghee diya’s with candles? Or the rising cost of living doesn’t leave room for upgrading furniture or colouring the walls of your house. The repertoire of things that have changed because of limitations; personal or environmental is ever increasing.

To restore some of its traditional elements, people have to make an effort. Religious understanding of the Hindu mythology in some is either little or extremely vague. Taking a step forward to make sense of this festival is more important that lighting crackers.

On the brighter side, Diwali has still managed to maintain the anticipation and the Holy Spirit of this day. Lakshmi Puja is done with utmost divinity; sweets are still prepared to offer the Goddess of wealth and opulence. These nitty-gritty’s of Diwali still make the festival a much-awaited time of the year. 

Report by Heena Makhijani