Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Have a happy Diwali next Tuesday

Next Tuesday Fiji will celebrate the Festival of Lights, Diwali. It is a lovely custom with houses lit up with candles welcoming the light from darkness. Neighbours sharing delicious sweet food, and goodwill. I think of the goodness in outstanding people bringing light from chaos, such as Mahatma Gandhi at this time of year. Though he had some quirky personal habits, his life is an inspiration showing that non-violence is one answer to oppression in society.

The Tradition of Lights

Lighted diyas represent light in darkness, achieving knowledge where there is ignorance, and spreading love amidst hatred. Diwali is also known as the Festival of Lights. Light signifies goodness. So, during the Festival of Lights, 'deeps', or oil lamps, are burned to ward off darkness and evil. Homes are filled with these oil lamps, candles and lights. Some people use decorated light candles, some decorated diya or clay lamps, and other decorative lights and put them in their windows for the festival. Traditionally people use 'earthen lamps' with cotton wicks and oil to light up the dark night.

The idea behind the Festival of Lights comes from various versions of an ancient Hindu story. In northern India, the tale tells about the holy Lord Rama's return from a twelve-year exile and the celebration by the people for their beloved hero. The rejoicing people decorated their city with lights to welcome him back. In southern India, the story talks of the Goddess Durga's triumph over the evil demon Narakasura. In Fiji the festival is associated with Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth.

This year Diwali is on Tuesday October 28th. It is a recognised public holiday throughout the Fiji Islands, with the Indian community decorating their homes and offices with bright, flashing lights and baking special sweets to celebrate the occasion.

A colourful design called a Rangoli is made near the entrance to a house to welcome guests. Traditionally they are painted or created out of coloured sand/rice powder. Like Hindu and Buddhist Mandalas, the reason for using powder or sand as a medium for creating Rangoli (and its resulting fragility) is sometimes thought to be a metaphor for the impermanence of life and maya. The motifs are usually taken from Nature - peacocks, swans, mango, flowers, creepers, etc. The colours traditionally were derived from natural dyes - from barks of trees, leaves, indigo or are synthetic dyes.

There is a nice blog with pictures of rangoli on:

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