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Monday, November 11, 2013

Diwali - an Indian Holiday

by Shobhan Bantwal

One can't help but feel the joyful holiday spirit come bounding in this month.  With Thanksgiving around the corner, and Christmas and New Year on the not-too-distant horizon, I decided to share with my fellow genre-ists my own ethnic holiday called "Diwali," the Indian festival of lights.

Interestingly Diwali falls quite close to the traditional Judeo-Christian holiday season, usually October or November.  The Hindu religious calendar follows the lunar cycle, therefore, like the Jewish holidays, Diwali never falls on exactly the same day every year.

Rather similar in nature to Christmas and Hanukkah, Diwali involves decorating the home with lights, exchanging gifts with family members, and of course gorging oneself on rich food. Colorful saris and gold jewelry are also very much part of the holiday festivities.

What is unique to Diwali however is the significance of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity. For most Hindus Diwali begins at dawn, with a ritualistic herbal bath and prayers offered to the goddess, followed by sharing a variety of sweet foods with family, friends, and neighbors. Gifts are generally reserved for family, mainly children (again, similar to Christmas and Hanukkah). Oil lamps and colorful paper lanterns are used for adorning the outside of the homes each evening during the ten-day celebrations.

For businessmen and women who believe that Lakshmi blesses them with financial success, Diwali is the beginning of the fiscal New Year. Elaborate parties and group dancing are part of the annual gala. For me personally, the prayers at our humble home altar and the family being together are the best parts of this unique holiday.

I have included Diwali in some of my novels, so many of my readers have become familiar with the term and the traditions associated with this holiday.

Ever since my husband and I immigrated to the United States forty years ago, we have embraced American culture wholeheartedly. So later in the season, my family also celebrates Christmas with the same fervor as Diwali, complete with decorated tree, gifts, music, and of course food. Who can resist those scrumptious Christmas cookies and cakes?

Now that is the beauty of America's melting-pot culture, where we all get to celebrate a wide variety of holidays, traditions, and most of all, the precious gift of freedom.

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Diana Mcc. said...

Diwali sounds like a wonderful holiday tradition. I find it interesting that it lasts 10 days! You are right about America being a melting pot of cultures and traditions. Thank you for sharing yours, and happy holidays!!

Shobhan Bantwal said...

Thanks for the good wishes, Diana. Diwali is somewhat similar to Hanukkah, which also lasts for many days and ends with that last day of prayer, festivities, and great food.

Happy Holidays to you and as well!

Paty Jager said...

I like to learn about other countries customs and holidays. Thank you for an informative and fun post.

Shobhan Bantwal said...

Thanks, Paty! It's always a pleasure to share my culture with everyone.

Shannon said...

Thank you so much for this beautiful description of Diwali. The cover of your book is gorgeous!

Judith Ashley said...

Hi Shobhan, I know I'm echoing previous comments when I say I've learned something new about India's culture. Is Lakshmi more about financial wealth and prosperity or about wealth and prosperity in general? A wealth of friends or good health for example...