Friday, November 09, 2007

Happy Diwali Everybody!

One of my favorite parts about my job (and some days, the only thing that keeps me there) is the fact that I work with a lot of Asian-Indians, and it gives me a great opportunity to be a part of their culture. It's a fair trade- they're unendingly curious about my veganism, and I'm unendingly curious about their culture. It's fun!

In any case, today is the third day of Diwali, one of the biggest holidays on the Hindu calendar. If you poke around the internet, you'll find that quite often, the definition of Diwali depends on who you ask. But here's a really good one, courtesy of the HARI Temple in New Cumberland, PA:


The customs of celebrating Diwali, the festival of light, vary from region to region. Though the theme of Diwali is universal, i.e., the triumph of Good over Evil, the Darkness paving way for Light and Ignorance leading to Knowledge. Diwali is celebrated for five days from Krishna Chaturdashi to Kaartik Shukla Dwiteeya. Diwali is observed by Hindus, Sikhs & Jains.

First Day: Dhanteras – Wednesday, November 07, 2007
Throughout India, the first day of Diwali is widely known as Dhanteras. This day is celebrated to revere Dhanavantri, the physician of the gods, and Goddess Laxmi. Dhanteras is also known by various other names such as Dhanatrayodashi, Asweyuja Bahula Thrayodasi / Dhantheran (in few South Indian States).

Second Day: Kalichudas – Thursday, November 08, 2007
In every Indian household, the second day is celebrated with the lighting of 5-7 deep (Diyas) on the door and corners. It is Diwali on a smaller scale, with fewer lights lit and fewer crackers burst.

Third Day: Diwali – Friday, November 09, 2007
Accompanied by the exchange of sweets and the explosion of fireworks, the third day of Diwali as the most important and significant day. The name Diwali comes from the Sanskrit word Deepavali. Other names that vary according to the regions are:
  • Lakshmi Puja: Diwali is synonymous with Lakshmi puja. Houses are decorated; Goddess Lakshmi is worshiped for prosperity and health.
  • Chopda Puja: Diwali also represents the start of a new business year so all businesses close their accounts and present them to Lakshmi and Ganesh during the Chopda Puja.
  • Balindra Puja: Diwali is also known as Balindra Puja in many South Indian States. In the morning, a puja offering oil to Krishna is performed.
Fourth Day: New Year – Saturday, November 10, 2007
The fourth day of Diwali falls on the first day of the lunar New Year. At this time, it is a new year for most of the Hindus, while for others on this day old business accounts are settled and new books are opened. The families celebrate it by dressing in new clothes, wearing jewelry and visiting family members.

Fifth Day: Bhai-Bij, Sunday, November 11, 2007
The fifth day of Diwali is widely known as Bhai dooj or Bhatri Ditya, and is dedicated to the sacred bond shared between brothers and sisters. It is a big family day.
Here are a couple of excellent links about Diwali: the BBC has some excellent background, as well as some lovely recipes (did I mention that this is a predominantly vegetarian holiday? Can I get a woot?) . And the Times of India has an interesting take on the commercialization of the holiday.

So best Diwali wishes to everyone. May the next year bring you all the happiness you deserve. And fireworks. Lots of fireworks.

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