By Alana Modi
Diwali. This is the festival of lights and it leads up to a prospering new year. It starts a new beginning for many and is filled with major celebrations. Hindus started counting time 56 years before the English did. This would make it the year 2076 according to the Hindu calendar. This calendar is very complex and is drastically different from the standard calendar used around the world. This holiday usually falls on a day in October or November depending on the year. The celebration of Diwali lasts 5 days, and this monumental celebration unites all Hindus no matter where they are in the world. This festival is also practiced by Jains, Budhists, and Sikhs, causing the message of good over evil to spread to all parts of the world. Diwali is a fresh start for so many.
Fifteen percent of the world’s population are Hindu, which is approximately 1.2 billion people. This is one of the first noted religions to exist, shaping the beliefs of many religions following. The population of Hindus is large, resulting in multiple interpretations of the holiday and how it came to be. The festival of Diwali was born when Rama, Sita, Laksman, and Hanuman came back to their home in Ayodhya after 14 years in exile. They were able to go back after Rama’s army defeated the evil army led by King Ravana.
In order to celebrate this magical holiday, people light candles all around; visit temples to pray for happiness, safety, and good health for the coming year; light massive fireworks; and exchange gifts with one another. People also get together to create beautiful masterpieces from sand that tend to be very colorful and resemble something very meaningful. This art is referred to as rangoli and many times vivid flowers are created with the grains of colored sand.
Every family accumulates their own traditions, but no matter how this festival is celebrated, remembering the gods who gave them life is something that all Hindus are thankful for on this day. Traditionally various types of sweets are made and distributed to all family members. One of the major ingredients in these sweets is ghee, or in other words purified butter. This makes the sweets very thick and rich with various exotic spices being used. Some of these spices include saffron and cardamom. Many nuts are also used to make these desserts. In order to try these you must have a large pallet to appreciate the flavors involved.
Overall Diwali is a major celebration for many and appreciating the story behind it and all the traditions it brings is important. Similar to the importance of Christmas for Catholics and Christians, this holiday has sentimental meaning to billions of people around the world.