India is a land of great charm, full of colours and contrasts, where traditions and spirituality are at the centre of Indian daily life. As soon as you arrive in this country, attracted by its vastness and its exoticism, you are literally catapulted into a reality where normality is characterized by people eating with their right hand, by people sleeping on the street, by monkeys stealing food from kitchens and by scooters whizzing by on the streets.
Today we are going to talk about one of the most important holidays that is celebrated in India, the Diwali (also called Deepawali), it is known as the festival of lights because millions of oil and electric lights illuminate every corner, every street and every house, it looks like Christmas holidays for the atmosphere it creates. This festival is celebrated to represent the victory of good over evil, the legend tells that Prince Ram after killing the demon Ravana, returned home with his family and the people lit rows of oil lamps to celebrate his return. Even today, during Diwali, rows of oil and electric lights are lit and the houses are decorated by painting kolam and adding candles. It is interesting that especially in South India, and regardless of the holidays, every morning Indian women draw kolam outside their homes, they are geometric shapes made by using chalk powder or rice flour to attract positive energies.
Diwali is celebrated on the 15th day of the Hindu month of Kartika, this month is considered as the most auspicious of the lunar calendar, this year it was celebrated on November 14. It involves the entire Hindu community and is an event able to unite millions of people who belong to different traditions and religions such as Sikh, Jain and Hindu. Just imagine a really huge party, a sort of Italian New Year’s Eve, during which, however, the celebrations follow one another frantically and last for five consecutive days. During the first day, also called Dhanteras, people celebrate the goddess of abundance Lakshmi; the second day is called Choti Diwali, and according to the legend on that day Krishna killed the demon Narakasura; the third day represents the real Diwali, dedicated to the Goddess Lakshmi; on the fourth day, Balipratipada, Indian people pray in honour of God Krishna; whereas the last day, Bhai Dooj, is dedicated to the relationships between brothers and sisters.
During these five days of non-stop celebrations, the streets, the houses and the temples decorated with millions of flowers and lights create an atmosphere of warmth. Cleaning the houses is an important and fundamental moment during this holyday because the houses must be ready and in perfect condition to welcome the different deities, the Indian people, however, not only dedicated themselves to cleaning and praying, but most of them do unbridled shopping, play cards, eat, prepare typical food for the entire community, wear the new clothes they just bought and friends and family meet themselves to exchange gifts, in short, they live it up.
Diwali is definitely a wonderful experience to live at least once in a lifetime to feel the thrill of being totally immersed in a culture so full of richness. “Those who love India do not know exactly why they do. […] And yet, once they meet it, they cannot live without it”, Tiziano Terzani.