Diwali

Diwali is a festival that I know little about. I’ve heard the name and I know it’s celebrated in India, but the actual celebration is something I know little about. I’m adding Diwali to my list to learn more about it and because India is a country that I am fascinated by. In a Global Art class I took, we intensively studied the architecture of the Taj Mahal and ever since I have been intrigued by Indian art and history.

Around this time of year in India and all over the world, Diwali, a five day festival is celebrated by Hindus Indians.  Also known as the “Festival of Lights”, Diwali is one of the most colorful events in the world. The search for inner light is deeply rooted in Hindu religion. Diwali is basically the celebration of good over evil, brightness over darkness. There are many legends that are associated with Diwali, each with this same theme of good over evil. What makes Diwali the festival of lights is the diyas. Diyas are small cotton-wick candles used for decoration.

Each of the five days of Diwali has its own significance. The first day celebrates with traditional decorations of Indian motifs and lights on houses. The second day is referred to as “Small Diwali” with fewer lights. The third day is the day of Diwali. It is the most important day of the five and is celebrated with fireworks (see pictures). Diwali continues with two more days of celebrations which include the exchange of gifts among loved ones.

Diwali has a lot of its own rituals involved. While it may be from a very Western viewpoint, Diwali reminds me a little of Christmas celebrations at my own home. Diwali is filled with traditional cooking, sweets, gifts, and games. The tradition of playing cards is a major part of the Diwali celebration. I found a description on why this is so: “The tradition of gambling on Diwali also has a legend behind it. It is believed that on this day, Goddess Parvati played dice with her husband Lord Shiva and she decreed that whosoever gambled on Diwali night would prosper throughout the ensuing year. This tradition of playing cards- flush and rummy with stakes on this particular day continues even today” (http://www.diwalifestival.org).

India is a country that is full of interesting history and culture. India has recently been in the news, as President Obama has been supporting its mission for a permanent seat on the Security Council. It will be interesting to see if his support helps lead to the permanent seat. Personally, I think it would be beneficial to have India on the Security Council- both to India itself and the UN.

 

Laura Stoddard

Iowa UNA

November 8, 2010

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