Tuesday 25 October 2016

Things You Probably Didn't Know About Diwali

With Diwali right around the corner, here are some fun facts about the Hindu festival.

It's Actually a 5-day Festival
The first day is known as Dhanteras. The Hindu God Ram was exiled by his father who ruled Ayodhya. While in exile, his wife Sita was abducted by a demonic ruler Ravana from Lanka. Rama defeated Ravana, rescued Sita and retured victorious to Ayodhya. They were welcomed by the people of the city by lighting the whole city with diyas.

The second day is called Chhoti Diwali or Narak Chaturdasi. It is believed Krishna, a central deity of the Hindu mythology, defeated the demon Narakasura on this day.The third day is celebrated as Laxmi Puja. This day centers around the worship of Laxmi, the goddess of wealth and enlightenment. The fourth day is Govardhan Puja. It is believed that Krishna defeated the demigod Indra on this day.

The fifth day is called Bhai Dhuj. Yama, the lord of death is said to have visited his sister on this day. She welcomed him by applying a 'tilak', an auspicious mark on his forehead for his welfare. Modern day traditions have translated this event into brothers and sisters spending time together with gifts and Diwali treats being exchanged.

It's the Celebration of Good Over Evil
While there is immense mythological significance for celebrating the festival, what it all boils down to is – the triumph of good over evil. Besides this important allegory, Diwali also coincides with the fall harvest. This time of the year gives the most fruitful results for farmers, especially rice cultivators.

There Are a Lot of Sweet Treats Involved
Ok, so this one isn't exactly a secret as any celebration is incomplete without some mouth-watering desserts. But, the sheer number of Diwali treats is mind boggling. There's 'mithai', which is mainly condensed milk based. Barfi is a popular type of mithai. It is made by mixing condensed milk with sugar and different flavors like saffron or even dried fruits. Kaju Katli is another form of mithai, which is made with powdered cashew and sugar syrup. Laddos are yet another form of dessert. They can be made with a lot of things, condensed milk or chickpea flour, but they are all round and sweet.

Every region has its form of Diwali mithai. In Maharashtra, where Diwali treats are called 'Faral', people make sweet dumplings out of flour called 'Karanji'. They are stuffed with a sweet mixture of coconut, jaggery and cardamom. Similarly, Rajasthan, has its version called 'Gujiya'. These are stuffed with condensed milk and dried fruit. Like most festivals that have been celebrated over time, the best treats are always made by moms and grandmas. The recipes are passed down the generations and everyone swears their mom makes the best laddos in town.        

There's Some Gambling Involved Too
Here's something that not a lot of people know. People gamble and play card games during Diwali. It is believed that Goddess Parvati played a game of dice with her consort, Lord Shiva. Elated with her win, she declared that anyone who played dice or gambled during Diwali would have a prosperous year. This game of dice has deep mythological meaning, where the universe is created and destroyed with the roll of the dice. Simplistically, it translated into modern day card games. The gambling is pretty lighthearted with friends and family coming over for a game of card. Grandmas and sweet old ladies are known to have mean card shark skills (due to their years of Diwali gambling experience) :)

How Hindus Celebrate Diwali
As with most celebrations, spending time with family and friends continues to be the foundation of any good celebration. There's plenty of delicious food and desserts involved mixed in with a little bit of gambling. Lighting of 'diyas' is another tradition that is important to Hindus because it signifies enlightenment. These diyas are small oil lamps made out of clay.

Your social media feed will also be flooded with 'Rangoli' around Diwali. Rangoli is an art form where designs are drawn onto the ground. They are made with many mediums. Colorful chalk, sand, rice and flower petals are the most common. Drawing one is almost meditative, kind of like adult coloring books.


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