It’s that time of the year again, it’s Diwali. For many, Diwali in India is often compared to Christmas in Western countries. It’s a national holiday, children go home and spend time with parents, houses are cleaned, people go to temples, traditional food flows free and people think back at the year behind. Diwali is called the festival of lights because in most parts of India people light up traditional lamps or crack fireworks.
The social role of this holiday is very similar to what happens during Christmas/New Year, and in other similar “end of the year cycle” festivities in other part of the worlds. We take stock of what we’ve accomplished and we get prepared for the new cycle. In practice, Diwali is scheduled around the end of the harvesting season where farmers look back at the goods in stock and pray for good harvesting in the next cycle. Takeaway: we all need to stop and look back every once in a while.
The religious roots of Diwali are based on the victory of good over evil, or light over darkness, with different winner/loser gods in different faiths (Rama/Ravana, Krishna/Narakasura) (*). The Christian symbol of the birth of Jesus also suggests the time of a new beginning and a new hope for the year to come. Takeaway: we all keep hoping for a better future.
In London, there is obviously a long stream of celebrations of which the most important one is Diwali in the Square, held in Trafalgar Square with traditional dances, ceremonies and free concerts. This year (2009) it was held on Sunday Oct 4th.
In Paris things are less established but the House of India (Maison de l’Inde) will host a free Diwali buffet dinner with concerts and traditional dances on Sunday Oct 18th at the Cite’ Universitaire.
Plenty of Diwali activities and events also in New York, including a dance and music performance at the Metropolitan Museum of Arts.
So to all our Indian friends around the world, happy Diwali!
(*) Thanks Wikipedia.