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Happy Diwali!




Friday, November 05, 2010
[Photo source:  gwu.edu]
Some of you might know what Diwali is while others of you might not.  I learned about Diwali...I dunno...3 years ago and when this five day celebration arrives, I always light some candles in honor of this very important Hindu holiday where Asian Indian families get together and celebrate while performing certain traditions which vary depending upon the region of India a family might be from.  What I know for sure is that there are plenty of lights, firecrackers and sweets.  (I keep telling you, I like love to celebrate culture.)  "The festival celebrates the victory of good over evil, light over darkness and knowledge over ignorance, although the actual legends that go with the festival are different in different parts of India."  [Source: bbc.co.uk]
Known as the Festival of Lights, Diwali (also known as Deepavali and Divali) is an official holiday in India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Mauritius, Guyana, Trinidad & Tobago, Suriname, Malaysia, Singapore, and Fiji.  [Source: Wiki]  This year, it begins today, on November 5.  Wiki goes on to say "With more and more Indians now migrating to various parts of the world, the number of countries where Diwali / Deepavali is celebrated has been gradually increasing. While in some countries it is celebrated mainly by Indian expatriates, in others it has become part of the general local culture."   See?  You should go ahead and light some candles too!  =)
[Photo source: SearchIndia.com]
Holiday.net describes the five days of celebration as follows:
•Day 1: Dhanteras - The Festival of Wealth.  On the day of Dhanteras, Hindus consider it auspicious to buy silver, gold or at least a utensil for their home as they believe that buying "Dhan" (asset) in some form of metal will bring luck and prosperity for their family. They celebrate Dhanteras by lighting clay diyas and singing devotional songs. Businessmen perform Dhanteras puja by worshipping their "bahi-khatas" (accounts books).
•Day 2: Choti Diwali.  On Choti Diwali day, people wake up early in the morning, break a bitter fruit and apply "ubtan" (kumkum-oil paste) on their body and then take bath. Paste of gram flour, fragrant powders and oil is also used in some states for applying ubtan. The breaking of fruit symbolizes crushing of Narkasur's head and the applying of ubtan represents smearing of blood by Lord Krishna on his forehead.  [Side note:  Narkasur was a ruler who was killed by Lord Krishna.]  Diyas and candles are lighted in the evening and crackers burst (shooting fireworks) in order to mark the celebration of Choti Diwali.

Diwali Puja: Lord Ganesh (God of Wisdom and remover of all obstacles),
Goddess Lakshmi (Goddess of prosperity) and
Goddess Saraswathi (Goddess of learning and knowledge)
[Photo source: Wiki]

•Day 3: Lakshmi Puja / Diwali.  The Diwali day amidst other celebrations, holds special importance for the Hindu community as they worship Lord Ganesha and Lakshmi (Laxmi) on this auspicious day. It is a common belief that Lakshmi - the goddess of wealth - visits the homes of her worshippers on this day and hence people keep their windows and doors open while performing puja [a ceremony of gratitude performed as an offering] in order to welcome the goddess. A sixteen step ceremonious puja is performed on Diwali to welcome the deity. People paint and decorate their houses with flowers and lights in order to welcome the goddess. Fresh scented flowers and herbs are offered to the deity along with sweets amidst blowing of a conch and the ringing of bells.

These children in India celebrate Govardhan Pooja at school.
[Source: Kinkari.com]

•Day 4: Padwa & Govardhan Puja.  The day following the Diwali day is celebrated as Padwa and Govardhan Puja day. As a symbol of love and affection between husband and wife, Gudi Padwa is celebrated by the exchange of gifts between married couples. People also invite their married daughters and sons-in-law over for a special meal and giving them gifts and presents after the feast.  [There's more, but I don't want to overwhelm you.]
•Day 5: Bhai Duj.  Bhai Duj is celebrated two days after Diwali and is the fifth or last day of the Diwali celebrations. This festival is celebrated as a mark of strengthening of the bond between brothers and sisters.  This festival is celebrated under different names in different parts of India but the main aspect behind this festival is strengthening the bond between brother and sister. It is one of the most awaited festivals in India.
This is a glass diya, hand painted and embellished with kundan crystals, from India.
[Photo source: Onceuponatime.blogspot.com]
P.S.  This video came in after I published this post.  It's the POTUS and FLOTUS celebrating Diwali in India.  Love it! 

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