Thursday, November 4, 2010

Be Happy – Celebrate Diwali

Diwali, Divali or Deepavali, Row of lights, or you can say it is a festival of lights - tomorrow we all shall celebrate this grand festival. Hindus and Jains community celebrate it with religious importance but other Indians attach cultural importance. Of all the festivals celebrated in India,

Diwali is by far the most glamorous and important. Enthusiastically enjoyed by people of every religion, its magical and radiant touch creates an atmosphere of joy and festivity. It is a festival of lights symbolizing the victory of righteousness and the lifting of spiritual darkness. It celebrates the victory of good over evil - and the glory of light. Diwali is a time for fun and revelry.

Diwali is a time for Prayers and Religious rituals. The people decorate their homes with lights, Fireworks, thousands of lamps lit to create a world of fantasy and distribute sweets and gifts. With the sounds of crackers killing all bad-omens, the lighted lamps-lighting the lives of people, the prayers and pujas creating an atmosphere full of goodness and purity, the festival of Diwali indeed fills the atmosphere with an aura of goodness and a heaven like atmosphere. Most Indian business communities begin the financial year on the first day of Diwali. Rangoli, decorations made from coloured powder, is popular during Diwali

For this festival, apart from India, Nepal, Guyana, Trinidad & Tobago, Mauritius, Malaysia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Myanmar , Fiji and Surinam too observe National holiday keeping in view the sentiments of the Indian inhabitants there. It is celebrated 20 days after Dussehra, on the 13th day of the dark fortnight of the month of Ashwin (October / November).

Some believe it to be the celebration of the marriage of Lakshmi with Lord Vishnu. Whereas in Bengal the festival is dedicated to the worship of Mother Kali, the dark goddess of strength. Lord Ganesha, the elephant-headed God, the symbol of auspiciousness and wisdom, is also worshiped in most Hindu homes on this day.

During Diwali, lights illuminate every corner of Indian house and the scent of incense sticks hangs in the air, mingled with the sounds of fire-crackers, joy, togetherness and hope. Diwali is celebrated around the globe. Outside India, it is more than a Hindu festival, it's a celebration of South-Asian identities.

While Deepavali is popularly known as the "festival of lights", the most significant spiritual meaning is "the awareness of the inner light". Central to Hindu philosophy is the assertion that there is something beyond the physical body and mind which is pure, infinite, and eternal, called the Atman.

Just as we celebrate the birth of our physical being, Diwali is the celebration of this inner light, in particular the knowing of which outshines all darkness (removes all obstacles and dispels all ignorance), awakening the individual to one's true nature, not as the body, but as the unchanging, infinite, immanent and transcendent reality.

With the realization of the Atman comes universal compassion, love, and the awareness of the oneness of all things (higher knowledge). This brings joy or peace. While the story behind Deepavali and the manner of celebration varies from region to region (festive fireworks, worship, lights, sharing of sweets), the essence is the same – to rejoice in the Inner Light (Atman) or the underlying reality of all things.

Deepavali celebrations are spread over five days. All the days except Diwali are named according to their designation in the Hindu calendar. The days are:

1. Vasu Baras (27 Ashvin or 12 Krishna Paksha Ashvin): Baras means the 12th day and vasu means cow. On this day the cow and calf are worshiped.

2. Dhanatrayodashi or Dhan teras or Dhanwantari Triodasi' (28 Ashvin or 13 Krishna Paksha Ashvin): Dhan means wealth andTrayodashi means 13th day. This day falls on the 13th day of the second half of the lunar month. It is considered an auspicious day for buying utensils and gold. This day is regarded as the Jayanti of God Dhanvantri who came out during the churning of the great ocean by the gods and the demons.

3. Naraka Chaturdashi (29 Ashvin or 14 Krishna Paksha Ashvin): Chaturdashi is the 14th day on which the demon Narakasura was killed by Krishna – an incarnation of Vishnu. It signifies the victory of good over evil and light over darkness (Gujarati: Kali Chaudas, Rajasthan : Roop Chaudas). In southern India, this is the actual day of festivities. Hindus wake up before dawn, have a fragrant oil bath and dress in new clothes. They light small lamps all around the house and draw elaborate kolams /rangolis outside their homes. They perform a special puja with offerings to Krishna or Vishnu, as he liberated the world from the demon Narakasura on this day. It is believed that taking a bath before sunrise, when the stars are still visible in the sky is equivalent to taking a bath in the holy Ganges. After the puja, children burst firecrackers heralding the defeat of the demon. As this is a day of rejoicing, many will have very elaborate breakfasts and lunches and meet family and friends.

4. Lakshmi Puja (30 Ashvin or 15 Krishna Paksha Ashvin): Lakshmi Puja marks the most important day of Diwali celebrations in North India. Hindu homes worship Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, and Ganesh, the God of auspicious beginnings, and then light lamps in the streets and homes to welcome prosperity and well-being.

5. Bali Pratipada and Govardhan Puja (1 Kartika or 1 Shukla Paksha Kartika) : In North India, this day is celebrated as Govardhan Puja, also called Annakut, and is celebrated as the day Krishna – an incarnation of god Vishnu – defeated Indra and by the lifting ofGovardhana hill to save his kinsmen and cattle from rain and floods. For Annakut, large quantities of food are decorated symbolizing the Govardhan hill lifted by Krishna. In Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, it is celebrated as Bali-Pratipada or Bali Padyami. The day commemorates the victory of Vishnu in his dwarf form Vamana over the demon-king Bali, who was pushed to the nether-world, and the return of Bali to earth from the nether-world. In Maharashtra, it is called as Padava or Nava Diwas (new day). Men present gifts to their wives on this day. It is celebrated as the first day of the Vikram Samvat calender, in Gujarat.

6. Bhaiduj (also Bhayyaduj, Bhaubeej or Bhayitika) (2 Kartika or 2 Shukla Paksha Kartika): on this day, brothers and sisters meet to express love and affection for each other (Gujarati: Bhai Bij, Bengali: Bhai Phota). It is based on a story when Yama, lord of Death, visited his sister Yami. Yami welcomed Yama with an Aarti and they had a feast together. Yama gave a gift to Yami while leaving as a token of his appreciation. So, the day is also called 'YAM DWITIYA'.

Spiritual significance

In each legend, myth and story of Deepawali lies the significance of the victory of good over evil; and it is with each Deepawali and the lights that illuminate our homes and hearts, that this simple truth finds new reason and hope. From darkness unto light — the light that empowers us to commit ourselves to good deeds, that which brings us closer to divinity.
Lakshmi Puja

Deepavali marks the end of the harvest season in most of India. Farmers give thanks for the bounty of the year gone by, and pray for a good harvest for the year to come. Traditionally this marked the closing of accounts for businesses dependent on the agrarian cycle, and is the last major celebration before winter. Lakshmi symbolizes wealth and prosperity, and her blessings are invoked for a good year ahead.

There are two legends that associate the worship of Lakshmi on this day. According to the first legend, on this day, Lakshmi emerged from Kshira Sagar, the Ocean of Milk, during the great churning of the oceans, Samudra manthan. The second legend (more popular in western India) relates to the Vamana avatar of the big three Vishnu, the incarnation he assumed to kill the demon king Bali. On this day, Vishnu came back to his abode the Vaikuntha; so those who worship Lakshmi receive the benefit of her benevolent mood, and are blessed with mental, physical and material well-being.

As per spiritual references, on this day "Lakshmi-panchayatan" enters the Universe. Vishnu, Indra, Kubera, Gajendra and Lakshmi are elements of this "panchayatan" (a group of five). The tasks of these elements are:

  • Lakshmi: Divine Energy (Shakti) which provides energy to all the above activities.
  • Vishnu: Happiness (happiness and satisfaction)
  • Kubera: Wealth (Generosity; one who gives away wealth)
  • Indra: Opulence (satisfaction due to wealth)
  • Gajendra: Carries the wealth

Significance in other religions: Diwali also has significance in other religions.

Jainism

Diwali has a very special significance in Jainism, just like Buddha Purnima, the date of Buddha's Nirvana, is for Buddhists as Easter is for Christians. Lord Mahavira, the last of the Jain Tirthankaras, attained Nirvana or Moksha on this day at Pavapuri on Oct. 15, 527 BC, on Chaturdashi of Kartika, as Tilyapannatti of Yativrashaba from the sixth century states:

Mahavira is responsible for establishing the Dharma followed by Jains even today. According to tradition, the chief disciple of Mahavira, Ganadhara Gautam Swami also attained complete knowledge (Kevalgyana) on this day, thus making Diwali one of the most important Jain festivals.

Mahavira attained his nirvana at the dawn of the amavasya (new moon). According to the Kalpasutra by Acharya Bhadrabahu, 3rd century BC, many gods were present there, illuminating the darkness. The following night was pitch black without the light of the gods or the moon. To symbolically keep the light of their master's knowledge alive:

16 Gana-kings, 9 Malla and 9 Lichchhavi, of Kasi and Kosal, illuminated their doors. They said: "Since the light of knowledge is gone, we will make light of ordinary matter"

Dipavali was mentioned in Jain books as the date of the nirvana of Mahavira. In fact, the oldest reference to Diwali is a related word, dipalikaya, which occurs in Harivamsha-Purana, written by Acharya Jinasena and composed in the Shaka Samvat era in the year 705.

tatastuh lokah prativarsham-araat ako
prasiddha-deepalikaya-aatra bharate
samudyatah poojayitum jineshvaram
jinendra-nirvana vibhuti-bhaktibhak

Translation: The gods illuminated Pavanagari by lamps to mark the occasion. Since that time, the people of Bharat celebrate the famous festival of "Dipalika" to worship the Jinendra (i.e. Lord Mahavira) on the occasion of his nirvana.

Dipalikaya roughly translates as "light leaving the body". Dipalika, which can be roughly translated as "splendiferous light of lamps", is used interchangeably with the word "Diwali".
Vira Nirvana Samvat: The Jain year starts with Pratipada following Diwali. Vira Nirvana Samvat 2534 starts with Diwali 2007. The Jain businesspeople traditionally started their accounting year from Diwali.
Thus the Nirvana occurred 605 years and 5 months before the Saka era. On 21 October 1974 the 2500th Nirvana Mahotsava was celebrated by the Jains throughout India.

Sikhism - Bandi Chhorh Divas

For Sikhs, Diwali is particularly important because it additionally celebrates the release from prison of the sixth guru, Guru Hargobind Ji, (hence also called "Bandi Chorr Devas"), and 52 other princes from the Gwalior Fort in 1619. The Sikhs celebrated the return of Guru Har Gobind by lighting the Golden Temple and this tradition continues today.

Martyrdom of Bhai Mani Singh Ji

An important Sikh event associated with Diwali is the martyrdom of the elderly Sikh scholar and strategist Bhai Mani Singh in 1737. Bhai Mani Singh was the Granthi (keeper/reader of Sikh scripture) of Harmandir Sahib (popularly known as the Golden Temple). He transcribed the final version of Guru Granth Sahib dictated to him by Guru Gobind Singh in 1704.

Bhai Mani Singh assumed charge of Harmandir Sahib's management in 1708. In 1737, he received permission from Zakariya Khan, the then Mughal governor of Punjab, to hold a religious gathering of the Khalsa for celebrating Bandi Chhorh Diwas on the auspicious day of Diwali for a large tax of 5000 Rupees. He expected to put together the required sum from contribution made by the Sikhs who would assemble that day. But on discovering Zakariya Khan's plot to kill the Sikhs during the gathering, he sent out messages warning them not to turn up for the meeting. As a result the tax could not be paid and Zakariya Khan ordered Bhai Mani Singh's execution at Lahore. It is also believed that this event, along with other Sikh martyrdoms, gave further momentum to the Khalsa struggle for freedom and eventual success in establishing the Khalsa rule in the north of Delhi.

Uprising against the Mughal Empire

The festival of Diwali became the second most important day after the Baisakhi, when Khalsa was formally established by the Tenth Guru Guru Gobind Singh in 1699.

The Sikh struggle against Mughal Empire's atrocities on non-Muslims, especially on Sikhs, which intensified in the 18th century, came to be centred around this day. After the execution of Banda Bahadur in 1716, who had led the agrarian uprising in Punjab, the Sikhs started the tradition of deciding matters concerning the community at the biennial meetings which took place at Amritsar on the first of Baisakh and at Diwali. These assemblies were known as the Sarbat Khalsa and a resolution passed by it became a gurmata (decree of the Guru).

Regional variations within India : The celebrations vary in different regions:
In Southern India
  • In Southern India, the festival is called Deepavali.
  • In Southern India, Narakasura vadha is the main day, with celebrations involving bursting firecrackers at dawn after Lakshmi puja. It is celebrated as Narakachaturdashi in Karnataka,
  • Deepavali is one of the seven most important festivals of Andhra Pradesh. It is very popular with children who celebrate Deepavali because of the excitement of bursting firecrackers. Special shops to sell firecrackers are set up in all towns, cities and bigger villages. There are some traditional customs followed such as buying new clothes for this festival. Buying new home or vehicles is considered auspicious. Special sweets are made too. Some eateries in Hyderabad make some delicious sweets during Deepavali which will not be available at any other time. Meat and alcohol are generally not consumed. Tradition has it that Andhraites gift sweets during Deepavali. Some areas host local stage story telling called Hari Katha. Some areas may put a huge Narakasura dummy made with firecrackers. This will be burst by a person dressed as Lord Krishna or, more accurately, a costume of Satyabhama, the consort of Lord Krishna, who actually killed the demon Narakasura; an event that is celebrated as Deepavali for generations. The evening sky of Deepavali is a colourful sight to watch.
  • In Tamil Nadu it is celebrated as Deepavali. People celebrate this by lighting deepams, bursting firecrackers, wearing new clothes and sharing sweets. A traditional visit to the Temple is a significant ritual of the day. In Tamil Nadu, the "row of lamps" are lit a few days after deepavali for a series of days called "Karthikai deepam"
  • In Karnataka The main festival, better known as Deepavali, in Karnataka is on the first day - Narakachaturdashi and third day - Balipadyami, with no celebration on the second day of "Amavasye". The festivities begin a day, during which water is stored (following the tradition, since running water was not available with ease, and it had to be carried from nearby ponds and lakes) for the next day's oil bath in the early hours of the morning. Then the entire house is cleaned and new clothes are purchased for the entire family (signifies becoming a new/better person by giving up darkness within us) which is followed by lighting of oil lamps around the house and bursting firecrackers. The third day is Bali Padyami celebrating Vamana's victory over 'Mahabali'.
  • Andhra Pradesh. In Northern India, Diwali is usually celebrated during the evenings with fireworks and diyas. However, in Andhra Pradesh, the festivities start out at the crack of dawn and carry on well into the night. Most people make a trip to the local temple along with their families to seek the blessings of their respective Gods. The night sky is lit up with a scintillating array of noisy fireworks.
People decorate their homes much like the Hyderabadi royalty would have done centuries ago. Homes are lit up with hundreds of diyas and colorful Diwali Rangolis (link) adorn the doorways. For children, it is similar to Christmas in western countries; they get new clothes to wear, delicious food to gorge on, and for once, they are allowed to make much noise. Another custom involves decorating homes with paper figures.

Festivities cut across boundaries to move on from the small villages to the big towns, often beginning almost a month before Deepawali. Sales of expensive silk saris, jewelry, ornaments, and household goods increase. From the poor to the rich, everyone indulges in the largest shopping spree of the year. Sweets, which are an integral part of any festival in Andhra Pradesh, are prepared or purchased from shops. The festival is full of messages depicting one or more aspects of human life, relationships, and ancient traditions.

In Maharashtra

In Maharashtra, Diwali starts from Vasubaras which is the 12th day of the 2nd half of the Marathi month Ashvin. This day is celebrated by performing an Aarti of the cow and its calf- which is a symbol of love between mother and her baby. The next day is Dhanatrayodashi or Dhanteras. This day is of special importance for traders and business people.

The 14th day of Ashvin is Narakchaturdashi. On this day, people wake up before sunrise and bathe after rubbing scented oil on their body (they also bathe using Utna). After this the entire family visits a temple and offers prayers to their God. After this visit, everyone feasts on Faral which is a special Diwali preparation consisting of delectable swets such as "karanji", "ladoo", "shankarpale", 'anarase' and "mithai" as well as some spicy eatables like "chakli", "shev" 'kadboli' and "chivda".

Then comes Lakshmi- poojan. It occurs on Amavasya i.e. no moon day. The dark night is illuminated by lamps and at dusk crackers are burst. New account books are opened after apooja. The Bombay Stock Exchange performs a token bidding called Muhurta bidding. Generally the traders do not make any payments on that day (according to their belief Lakshmi should not be given away but must come home). In every household, cash, jewellery and an idol of the goddess Lakshmi is worshipped. Friends, neighbours and relatives are invited over and celebrations are in full swing. The broom used to clean one's house is also worshipped as a symbol of Lakshmi in some places .

Homes are cleaned and decorated before Diwali. Offices perform puja. Bonuses and holidays are granted to employees on these auspicious days. People buy property and gold on these days too. Children build replica forts in memory of the founder of Maratha empire, Shivaji Maharaj. For children, Fire works, new clothes and sweets make Dipavali the most eagerly awaited festival of the year. It is also traditional to invite close family and friends over for Faral, lunch or dinner during the days of Diwali.

In Orissa

Deepavali is celebrated with great joy. Rows of oil lamps, candles adorn the thresholds of all houses. Crackers are burst, sweetmeals are relished and distributed. Some people also worship goddess Kali or family goddess Mahavidya . Tarpanam is done in the early morning of deepavali.

All the members of the household gather together just after dusk. A rangoli of a sailboat is made on the ground. The boat has seven chambers. Over the drawing of each different chamber several items are kept - cotton, mustard, salt, asparagus root, turmeric and a wild creeper. Over the central chamber are the offerings meant for prasad. Perched over the prasad is a jute stem with a cloth wick tied around the edge. It is lit at the beginning of the puja. All members of the family hold a bundle of jute stems in their hands, Lighting their respective bundles from the flame on the rangoli, they raise them skywards chanting:

Bada badua ho, andhaara re aasa, aluwa re jaa. Baaisi pahaacha re gada gadau tha. ("O forefathers, come to us in this dark evening, we light your way to heaven. May you attain salvation on the 22 steps of the Jagannath temple of Puri)

Beside the rangoli, a mortar and pestle and a plough are also kept and worshiped. After the puja and offerings, the family celebrates Diwali festival by bursting crackers. As in other regions, most people prefer to celebrate it in their own homes, though family gatherings are also common. For Diwali houses are brightly lit, with the doors and windows kept open as Lakshmi is supposed to visit every home, and you can't afford to leave it dark and abandoned. Various kinds of Pithas are prepared and given to the dieties and forefathers,and enjoyed with family and friends.The festival is a famous affair in Bhadrak ,Rourkela, Cuttack &Jajpur area.

In Bengal & Assam

Kali Puja is light-up night for Kolkata & Assam and also in Silchar (Assam), corresponding to the
festival of Diwali (pronounced Dipabali in Bengali), where people light candles in memory of the souls of departed ancestors. The Goddess Kali is worshipped at night on one night during this festival. This is also a night of fireworks, with local youth burning sparklers and crackers throughout the night. Kolkata had to pass legislature a few years back to ban fireworks which break the 65 decibel sound limit, as ambient noise levels were going up to 90 decibels or more in parts of the city.

In Goa and Konkan

Diwali begins in Konkan and Goa on the day of Naraka Chaturdashi.The houses are cleaned and decorated with Kandil, lamps, mango leaves, and marigold flowers. The utensils are made to shine, filled with water, and decorated for the holy bath the following morning. On this day, paper-made effigies of Narakasura, filled with grass and crackers symbolising evil, are made. These effigies are burnt at around four o'clock in the morning the following day/ Crackers are burst, and people return home to take a scented oil bath. Lamps are lit in a line. The women of the house perform aarti of the men,gifts are exchanged,a bitter berry called as kareet is crushed under the feet in token of killing Narkasur, symbolising evil and removal of ignorance. Different varieties of Poha and sweets are made and eaten with family and friends. Festivities continue til Tulsi vivah and lamps are lit every evening. Celebrations include Lakshmi puja on the Diwali day,Krishna puja or Govardhan puja and cattle worship on Balipratipada day, Bhaubeej, and Tulsi vivah. In Konkan diwali is called "Chavdis".

Fairs

To add to the festival of Diwali, fairs (or 'melas') are held throughout India. Fairs (Mela) are to be found in many towns and villages. A fair generally becomes a market day in the countryside when farmers buy and sell produce. Girls and women dress attractively during the festival. They wear colourful clothing and new jewelry, and their hands are decorated with henna designs.

Among the many activities that take place at a mela are performances by jugglers, acrobats, snake charmers and fortune tellers. Food stalls are set up, selling sweet and spicy foods. There are a variety of rides at the fair, which include Ferris wheels and rides on animals such aselephants and camels. Activities for children, such as puppet shows, occur throughout the day.
In other parts of the world

In Singapore, Deepavali is marked by 2 kilometres of lights across the Little India area.
Diwali is celebrated in various parts of the world, particularly those with large populations of Indian and Hindu origin.

These include countries such as Australia Canada Fiji, Guyana, Surinam, Indonesia, Japan, Kenya, Malaysia, Mauritius, Myanmar, New Zealand, Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Trinidad and Tobago, Thailand, the United Kingdom and the United States. With more and more Indians now migrating to various parts of the world, the number of countries where this festival is celebrated has been gradually increasing. While in some countries it is celebrated mainly by Indian expatriates, in others it has become part of the general local culture. In most of these countries, Diwali is celebrated on the same lines as described in this article with some minor variations. Some important variations are worth mentioning.

In Nepal, Diwali is known as "Tihar" or "Swanti". It is celebrated during the October/November period. Here the festival is celebrated for five days and the traditions vary from those followed in India. On the first day (Kaag tihar), crows are given offerings, considering them to be divine messengers. On the second day (Kukur tihar), dogs are given food for their honesty. On the third day, Laxmi puja is performed. This is the last day according to Nepal Sambat, so many of the businessmen clear their accounts on this day and on finishing it, worship goddess Laxmi, the goddess of wealth. The fourth day is celebrated as new year. Cultural processions and other celebrations are observed in this day. The Newars celebrate it as "Maha Puja", a special ritual in which the body is worshipped to keep it fit and healthy for the year ahead on this day. On the fifth and final day called "Bhai Tika", brothers and sisters meet and exchange gifts.

In Nepal, family gathering is more significant during Diwali. People in the community play "Deusi and Bhailo" which is a kind of singing and dancing forming a group. People go to all the houses in the community and play songs and dance, and give blessing to the visited house, whereas the home owner gives some food like rice grains, Roti,fruits and money. After the festival, people donate some part of collected money and food to the charity or welfare groups and rest of the money and food, they go for picnic. People also play swing called Dore Ping made out of thick ropes and Pirke Ping or Rangate Ping made out of woods.

In Trinidad and Tobago, communities all over the islands get together and celebrate the festival. One major celebration that stands out is the Diwali Nagar, or Village of the Festival of Lights. It features stage performances by the east Indian cultural practitioners, a folk theatre featuring skits and plays, an exhibition on some aspect of Hinduism, displays by various Hindu religious sects and social organizations, nightly worship of Goddess Lakshmi, lighting of deeyas, performances by various schools related to Indian culture, and a food court with Indian and non-Indian vegetarian delicacies. The festival culminates with magnificent fireworks displays ushering in Diwali. Thousands of people participate in an atmosphere devoid of alcohol and in a true family environment.

In Malaysia, Diwali is known as "Hari Deepavali," and is celebrated during the seventh month of the Hindu solar calendar. It is a federal public holiday throughout Malaysia. In many respects it resembles the traditions followed in the Indian subcontinent. 'Open houses' are held where Hindu Malaysians (Malaysian Tamils) welcome fellow Malaysians of different races and religions to their house for a scrumptious meal. This is a practice unique to Malaysia and shows the goodwill and friendly ties practised by all Malaysians during any festive occasion.

In Singapore, the festival is called "Deepavali", and is a gazetted public holiday. Observed primarily by the minority Indian community (Tamils) , it is typically marked by a light-up in the Little India district, the heart of the Indian community. Apart from the light-up, other activities such as bazaars, exhibitions, parades and concerts will also take place in Little India. The Hindu Endowment Board of Singapore along with Singapores' government organizes many of these cultural events during the Deepavali period.

In Sri Lanka, this festival is also called "Deepavali" and is celebrated by the Tamil community. On this day, it is traditional for people to wear new clothes and exchange gifts.

In Britain, Hindus and Sikhs celebrate Diwali with great enthusiasm and in most ways very similarly to as in India. People clean and decorate their homes with lamps and candles. A popular type of candle used to represent this holiday is a diya. People also give each other sweets such as laddoo and barfi, and the different communities may gather from around the country for a religious ceremony and get-together. It is also an important time to contact family in India and perhaps exchange gifts through the post. It is a greatly celebrated holiday and is a great way to connect with the culture and heritage of India.

Diwali is becoming a well known festival in Britain and non-Indians also join in the festivities. Leicester plays hosts to some of the biggest celebrations outside of India itself Diwali also coincides closely enough with the British Guy Fawkes (Bonfire Night) traditions on November the 5th that in many areas, such as the East End of London, a kind of joint festival has evolved where everyone celebrates and enjoys the same fire and fireworks for their own diverse reasons.
In New Zealand, Diwali is celebrated publicly among many of the South Asian diaspora cultural groups. There are main public festivals in Auckland and Wellington, with other events around the country becoming more popular and visible. An official reception has been held at the New Zealand Parliament since 2003.

In Australia, Diwali is celebrated publicly among the people of Indian origin and the local Australians in Melbourne. On 21 July 2002 an organisation “The Australian Indian Innovations Incorporated”(AIII) comprising of a conglomerate of independent organisations and individuals was formed to celebrate Indian Festivals In Melbourne. AIII facilitated opportunities to depict the cultural kaleidoscope of India and assist Indians in Melbourne to showcase Indian art, culture, style, traditions and food via various activities, seminars, festivals, fairs and events. The first Inaugural Diwali Festival-2002”, was held at Sandown Race Course on Sunday 13 October 2002. Since then until October 2008, about 140000 people visited this Australian Indian Cultural Extravaganza filled with culture, fun and cuisine. This 10 Hour Festival is depicting India through 50 Stalls, 10 Food stalls and an 8 hour cultural programme with Dj, Children's rides and spectacular fire works over the last 7 years.

In the United States, with increasing Indian population, Diwali is assuming significant importance year after year. Diwali was first celebrated in the White House in 2003 and was given official status by the United States Congress in 2007. Barack Obama became the first president to personally attend Diwali at the White House in 2009. Indians in the US celebrate Diwali in different parts of the US, just as in India. The Diwali Mela in Cowboys Stadium boasted an attendance of 100,000 people in 2009. In 2009, San Antonio became the first U.S. city to sponsor an official Diwali celebration including a fireworks display and 5000 people in attendance.

Since this festival is meant for joy, you may celebrate it with full enjoyments.

Be Happy – Celebrate Diwali.

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