What is Diwali says the non-Indians who might be reading this. I just told my coworker about Diwali and described it as the Indian New Year, then he asks me “so what year is it” – hahahhahaahhahah #Ilovefunnyjokes – he expects me to look that up and tell him …..errrrr….
Diwali is the largest, brightest festival in India. Known as our New Years, it is the festival of lights. Diwali is celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists to mark different historical events, stories or myths but they all symbolise the victory of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, good over evil, hope over despair. I won’t get into too much detail of the religious aspect, but the mythological story goes that Hindus celebrate Diwali in honor of the return of Lord Rama, his wife Sita & brother Lakshman returned from his exile of 14 years. Villagers lit Diyas, or candles so he could find his path. Here is a fun, easy to read (because it’s directed to children lol) version of the story if you want to get the gist of some background in a quick, light, fun way:
Ramayana (feel free to print out the coloring pages if you are bored 😉 )
So what is Diwali to me? Diwali means (or meant) dance practice! Always! From junior high until college. If I remember correctly, we would start about a month and a half or so before our community (or school, when I was in college) Diwali function. Dance practice was always sooo much fun!!! I got to see my friends and we got to get creative and work on a dance. Well, when I was younger, we had the adults teach us and we had to follow their routines. In college though – we got extremely creative!! There were a lot of great dancers/dance groups and performances and my friends and I wouldn’t have that! lol! We had to be the best! We never repeated steps, always did some acting and shock factor, one time we did our entrance from the audience, instead of the stage and nobody knew where were at until we got on stage! That dance was awesome! We always did medleys too but that’s pretty standard. One time we carried “pots” which were actually pumpkin shaped candy baskets (Diwali falls around Halloween, lol) and we put sparkly confetti in it and threw it out at the audience hahahahah!!!! The people sitting in the front row freaked out!!! They probably thought we were going to throw water at them LOL.
I remember how nerve wracking it was while we waited back stage during the dance before ours. It was hot and cold at the same time! I remember this one year we had this really difficult step. I was so worried I was going to screw up once on stage!! The step involved a jump with a turn and then a pose. When we were to jump though, we had a mid-air pose and then had to turn our leg the other way for the turn. We got it off a Bollywood song and it was complicated. I never got it right during practice but somehowww when I was on stage, I aced it perfectly!!! And when I saw the video the effect looked so much nicer with our lengha’s on. I’ve learned the outfits make the steps look soo much nicer sometimes!
Speaking of dressing up – yessss…of course Diwali is the best excuse for women to dress up and break out our best jewels, bindis and mendhi (“henna” – btw I hate that word. Never heard it until I heard Gwen Stefani say it) Men dress up in their best kurthas as well.
In India, they light firecrackers (that are more like bombs, dare I say with the risk of some ignorant terrorist comment) they hit up the temples, decorate homes with beautiful diyas (lamps), lights, they decorate entryway in the front of their house with rangoli (basically an art form in which patterns are created on the floor in living rooms or courtyards using materials such as colored rice, dry flour, colored sand or flower petals.)
And just like every other place in the world during the biggest holiday of the year, families get together and eat and eat and eat…and then drink chai!
Hopefully I’ll be able to be in India during Diwali one of these upcoming years!
Here are some Diwali related celebration images/art, diyas and rangoli I would like to share with you: