Here comes Diwali… the most important festival for Hindus all over the world. On this day, special prayers are offered to Lakshmi – Goddess of Wealth. The goddess embarks on a tour of each and every house at night. Homes are kept spick and span and decorated to please the Goddess and ensure prosperity.
The cleaning of homes begins few days before Diwali. At sunrise, the house is swept clean, lime wash and red ochre are applied on a wall and a figure of the Goddess of Lakshmi is drawn on it. A clay idol of Lord Ganesh, the ‘good luck’ God (the elephant-headed god) and remover of obstacles is also displayed. The idols are worshiped with water, red powder, rice, fruit, camphor and jaggery.
Decorations are made around the home with an array of coloured lights, candles, paper lanterns and religious symbols formed out of coloured rice and chalk (known as rangoli).
The Festival of Lights involves the lighting of small lamps filled with oil to signify the triumph of good over evil. These lamps are kept on during the night- in order to make Goddess of Lakshmi (Goddess of Wealth) feel welcome. Firecrackers are burst to drive away evil spirits. Children run around with great enthusiasm and excitement for the fireworks that begin a few days before Diwali.
Family, friends and neighbours welcome one another. Women dress up in the most glorious silk sarees, colourful silk garments and jewellery – gold, silver, pearls galore!!
Crowds gather in temples for the Diwali/Lakshmi puja. Traders, shopkeepers, hawkers and street vendors all perform Lakshmi puja. Financial brokers collect all their accounting books and ledgers and perform a dignified puja to thank Lakshmi for all that she has given to them in the past and to respect her wishes for the future! Gold and silver coins are offered in the puja.
Legend story tells us that Goddess of Wealth was served 36 varieties of food on a gold plate – and women today follow this legend in preparing the most exciting fare of snacks and sweets for the festive season. Traditional recipes and innovative foods are prepared and great networking takes place on the phone amongst women friends and relatives, to find who has the best recipe!
The day after Diwali people visit the homes of their loved ones. The younger lot seek the blessings of their elders by bowing to them.
On this day one also ignores old enmity and greets one’s foes.
Let us join in the celebrations – let us embrace this pious occasion to the fullest. Let us spread happiness, friendship, kindness, forgiveness, respect and love for all.
HAPPY DIWALI AND SAAL MUBARAK (Happy New Near)