Diwali. Many prefer it to be pronounced as Dhee-va-lee. It translates to the festival of lights. Hindu lore depicts it as the moment when King Ram was coming back from being in the forest for fourteen years in order to rescue his wife Sita, who had been kidnapped.
Upon returning home, people figuratively and literally lit the way for them by placing lamps along the entrances of their houses. This gesture was done as an act of celebration, but today it has been a way for people rich, poor, young, or old to participate together. Most Indians who have celebrated Diwali in the past have lit a lamp or diya, but today there are battery operated ones and now even digital diyas, e-cards, or gifs that can be sent online. You are bound to get one through text, your Facebook wall, or from an email from a relative.This is the way I grew up celebrating Diwali. My family has a mix of practicing Hindus and Sikhs, so there have been some alternate ways of observing this special day. It is celebrated differently throughout the world, but the most common ways are the done by Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, and Jains.
Hindu Lore has been written and recorded in books such as the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. If these tales are new, I would recommend checking out National Geographic Kids because they have done a pretty good job simplifying some of these stories. In Southern India, Diwali is seen as the day that Lord Krishna defeated the demon Narakasura. As for western India, the celebration commemorates Lord Vishnu for vanquishing the demon King Bali to reign over Hell. For Sikhs it signifies the day that the sixth guru, Guru Hargobind Ji, was freed from prison. In Buddhism, Diwali is observed as Ashok Vijayadashami the day that Emperor Ashoka converted to Buddhism and renounced fighting. For a dramatic spin on the story of Ashok, one could watch the Bollywood movie Ashoka. For Jains it represents the day of enlightenment of Lord Mahavira. Although different faiths and cultures celebrate it slightly different, the day still holds significance for all, which is why both people of faith and just curious tourists enthusiastically participate.
Even in other countries, this tradition continues first, second, or third generation (and so on) Desi's are people of Indian descent born in a different country. Since they are growing up in a different country, sometimes not all of the culture is kept, but Diwali is one of the few practices that is still thought to be as important enough to be upheld. Another aspect that everyone shares in common during Diwali is the food. It is probably one of the best things about the holiday. This can range from snacks, meals, and of course desserts. One of my favorite snacks is chevda. If one likes trail mix, peanuts, or any type of bar snacks, there is a good chance they would like it as well. People are always eating during Diwali. If one were to go to someone’s house, it is really hard to go to any part of the house without eating a snack or a dessert. The feeling will set in especially if one were to be a guest and politely attempting to refuse food for risk of appearing rude. It wouldn't matter if one already had seconds, thirds, and are being told to have some dessert and chai. The concept of offering your food and home to family, friends, and strangers during this time is interesting because this practice can be seen throughout the classes.
As for the meals, most of them are vegetarian as most Hindus do not eat meat during this time. There are parts of India that observe Kali prayers and eat goat meat. I myself prefer puri paratha, baked beans curry, and vegetable biryani. My favorite desserts have to be the mithai, barfi, gulab jamun, rasmalai, and kulfi ice cream. It’s kind of hard to find these types of food in Korea, but there are some cultural celebrations that exist if one were to look.
Food is how I connect with my culture because it is pretty much what brings my family together despite different political viewpoints, age, and of course the petty arguments that turn into childish and immature ignoring between family members. I’m not talking about the kids haha. Anyway, since I am currently in South Korea, I was thinking of attending the ICCK’s Diwali Ball. It is being held in November, which is kind of strange, but hey I'll still celebrate it and keep you guys updated on how it goes. Diwali falls on Thursday October 19th this year. Happy Diwali to you all!
National Geographic Kids. “Articles Diwali.” 2015. National Geographic Kids. 2017 October 17. <http://kids.nationalgeographic.com/explore/diwali/#diwali_candles.jpg>.
Times of India. “Diwali Lore.” 2011 October 7. India Times. 2017 October 17. <https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/diwali-rituals/Diwali-Lore/articleshow/10265507.cms>.
Online Purohit. "Diwali 2018: History, Importance, and Significance. 2018 September 13. <http://onlinepurohit.com/diwali-celebration-2018-history-significance-gifts-greetings/>.