Much excitement for Diwali lies ahead in the Ramlal household. Almost here again, Diwali or Deepavali is the Hindu Festival of Lights. It is a five day festival beginning on the 18th of October 2017 and continues until the 22nd of October. Depending on the cycle of the moon, it is observed on the 15th day of Kartik, the holiest month in the Hindu lunar calendar. India celebrates Diwali this year on the 18th of October and our South Africans, a day later.
Diyas (clay lamps)
Indian homes are adorned with garlands and their outdoor areas decorated with colourful rangoli patterns that are considered a provider of good luck. Rangoli are art patterns created using coloured rice or flour, even coloured sand. Patterns, like recipes, are passed down from grandmothers to their daughters and their granddaughters, keeping these art forms and traditions alive.
Preparations begin weeks in advance, the highlight is shopping for the ideal outfit or sari. Houses are cleaned, beautifully decorated and the brassware polished to a shine. Recipes are exchanged, the best decorative diyas (clay lamps) are sought and fireworks are purchased. Closer to the day, feasts of the east in the forms of mithais (sweetmeats and rich desserts) are prepared. Family members begins the day by a having a three oil bath. The purpose of this is to calm, cleanse and release all anxieties. Not all children though enjoy the bath! Lakshmi, the goddess of fertility and prosperity is prayed to, as a purveyor of truth, light, immortality and peace. A sumptuous lunch of vegetarian curries and savouries follows. Clay lamps are prepared with oil and wicks (long strips of cotton wool rolled in oil) in advance and lit at night, as a celebration of light and hope. Visitors are expected and sweetmeats are exchanged between families, neighbours and friends. It is a festival of joy, love and forgiveness.
For the past 16 years, my Diwali days and nights were spent in the kitchen with our Labradors. Despite the calming tablets, they were terrified of the loud fireworks and happily spent the evening in the kitchen satisfied with the treats. Last year, sadness prevailed after our pet Labrador, Lucky was lost to cancer, his mother, Chelsea succumbed to old age a year earlier. There was no celebration for us, we had lost our children. This year, the kittens (strays we home) have been tagged, collared and their beds prepared as they experience their first Diwali. The cockatiels, Miss Elizabeth and Mr Darcy, though, revel in the celebrations of the neighbours fireworks and our silent star-lights and displays.
Diwali, one of the most popular holidays in Hindu countries, has become a unifying festival throughout the world. In Australia, since 2004, the Sydney Opera House has been lit up in gold. Federation Square last year, drew up to 56000 people. Special events are planned and enjoyed. Temples are open to all faiths, Celebrations comprises traditional dances, live music, Indian cuisine and impressive, spectacular fireworks displays brings together, strangers, friends and family.
It is a joyous time but it must be said, sad too. Pets and animals are terrified of the fireworks and in their desperate need for shelter and protection, are lost, disorientated, and hurt with the fireworks. People are urged to safeguard their pets and be mindful of other animals. All are to be reminded that Diwali is a Festival of Lights and not loud bangs. The defined hours for fireworks revelry must be adhered too.
Diwali symbolizes the victory of good over evil.
Let it be so for all of us, humans and animals.
Pictures courtesy of the web, except for my kittens