Diwali is a festival close to my heart, and over the years I’ve borrowed from various stories and legends to create traditions for my own family. I’m not a historian, so my advanced apologies if my rendition of the Diwali story isn’t perfect!
This year Diwali falls on November 3th. It is the grandest and most globally recognized Indian festival. (In many parts of the world it’s referred to as the ‘Festival of of Lights’.) There are many myths and legends surrounding the actual origin of Diwali, but each story carries a common thread – that good prevails over evil. We light diyas and candles to illuminate our homes and our inner selves so we can push out thoughts of negativity and hatred from within ourselves and replace them with light and love for all of mankind.
Growing up my mom basically shared two versions of the Diwali story with us. The first was that many Hindu’s believe that Diwali was celebrated when the King Ram returned to his home in Ayodhya after rescuing his wife Sita from the evil Raavan (good prevails over evil). The second was the Sikh version of Guru Amar Das using his sharp mind and creativity to have 52 wrongfully imprisoned kings released from the jail cells of the Mughal Emperor Jahengir (again, good prevails over evil).
There are so many details for celebrating Diwali, but I’ve filtered them down into 3 basic guidelines that I use with my family:
1. During the days leading up to Diwali clean, purge, and organize your home. Most Hindus believe that the day after Diwali is the start of the fiscal new year. For this reason we clean out our homes, rid ourselves of junk, and create a fresh start. Many legends also say that Lakshmi (the goddess of wealth) will only visit your home during the festival if it is sparkling clean, and if she doesn’t visit, your financial outlook will be very bleak for the coming year.
2. Celebrate with friends and family. Around this time of the year I try invite friends over for tea, or stop by with a treat – it’s a good way to reconnect with people and start the year off in a happy mood. It is popular to invite friends over to play cards, this is based around a legend that Shiv and Parvati played dice on Diwali one year, and the Goddess Parvati declared that those who gamble on Diwali night will be prosperous all year. (Ironically, the rest of the year gambling is a big no-no!)
3. Foster a spirit of giving and charity. Diwali is a time to celebrate the abundance in your life and share with those that are less fortunate, but it’s also a time to show your love to any and all guests who visit your home. When we were little my mom would tell us a story about the Goddess Laxmi dressing up as a beggar woman and going house to house asking for alms. The richest homes in the village turned her away, but one poor couple shared the few bites they had that evening, the following year they were showered with wealth. The point of the story really was that everyone who visits your home should be treated like God, because you never know what “character” he/she may visit you in. We even have a saying, “atithi dev bhava”, which translates to the guest is god.
I really wanted to include my blog readers in my celebrations of Diwali this year, because you visit my virtual home sometimes daily, and you shower me with an abundance of love and positive re-enforcement when I need it most. So, I went to my friends at TELUS and asked if they could help me make the Diwali season a little more special for one of you – and they said yes! (PS: The social media team at TELUS rocks!)
One of you lucky ducks is going to win a Samsung Galaxy S3mini phone! (only valid in Canada though – sorry) You know the drill…enter below…