Diwali, the festival of lights, is the largest in the Hindu calendar. It is celebrated on a grand scale all across India. On a religious level, Diwali is the celebration of the Hindu deity Ram and his victory over Ravan and symbolises the triumph of good over evil; light over darkness.
Among other things, it marks the beginning of the New Year – both fiscal and calendar. It is a time when business people close their accounting books and invoke the blessings of Lakshmi – the goddess of wealth. Each year Diwali’s popularity grows around the world with people of all faiths joining in enthusiastically. This year Diwali will be celebrated on 23rd October 2014.
Such is the size of the Indian diaspora that Diwali is rapidly becoming a recognized national festival in many countries around the world.
Let’s take a quick whirl around the globe to see how Diwali is celebrated in some other countries.
Diwali in Britain
In Britain, where Indians are the second largest ethnic minority, the festival starts with Lakshmi pooja at the temple, blowing of the conch shell and other devotional rites. Small oil lamps called diyas are put out on windowsills and doorways, which is a part of the Diwali traditions. London usually puts on a big spectacle in Trafalgar Square with musicians and dancers performing on stage for free. Diwali is also celebrated in the House of Commons.
Diwali in the United States of America
Another country with a very sizable Indian population is the United States. The affluence of the Indian community is reflected in the grand scale that it is celebrated all across the country. Traditional diyas are lit, Vedic mantras chanted and other ceremonies performed much like in India.
Diwali in Thailand
The Thai name for Diwali is Lam Kriyongh. The Thai customs have their own local flavour. The people make the diyas out of banana leaves and candles and float them on the river. This provides a gentle and colourful spectacle. Customarily sweets are also distributed.
Diwali in South Africa
Home to one of the larger Indian communities the South African version of Diwali is pretty much the same as India. However, since most of the Indians originally came from Gujarat and Tamil Nadu their celebrations more or less mimic their regional parent communities back in India.
Diwali in Trinidad, Tobago and Guyana
Indians comprise a large percentage of the population of the Islands. As such Diwali is a national holiday for these states with official functions and celebrations attended by government ministers. Just like in India the festivities include, distribution of sweets, illuminating the inside and outside of houses, cleaning of houses and wearing of new clothes.
Diwali in Bali
While Indonesia is a Muslim dominated state, Bali is of a different texture – it is Hindu. Several thousand temples dot the island, which are decorated and dressed with umbrellas placed in and around them. Diwali is celebrated in much the same way as in India but with a delicacy all its own.
Diwali is also celebrated in Fiji, Malaysia, Nepal, Mauritius, Myanmar, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Japan and Australia.