In a Hindu calendar year crammed full of varied and wonderful festivals the best is saved for the last – Diwali, the Festival of Lights.
If you happen to be in India this week or happen to be looking down from space upon it, you will see the most breathtaking of sights. House upon house and street after street lit up with lamps and colourful lanterns in the most exuberant of celebrations.
Diwali or Deepawali which begins today simply means a row of lights. It is said that with Lord Ram in exile the Kingdom of Ayodhya had turned into a ghost town. But, when the news of his return reached his people they were so overjoyed they lined the streets with oil lamps to welcome him home.
Some believe it was the day Vishnu and Goddess Laxmi were married and the universe had lit up in celebration. In Bengal, it is dedicated to the worship of Kali.The Sikh celebrate it to mark the day Guru Hargobind Singhji was freed from prison.
Whatever the backstory, it is the most beautiful of festivals and my favourite.
While the festivities last for four days, weeks are spent in preparation. Spring cleaning the house, preparing sweets, shopping for clothes, jewellery and the essential fireworks.
It is the tradition to wake up early before dawn, bathe in scented oils, light lamps and decorate the entrance to the home with colourful patterns called rangoli. At sunset lamps are lit and Goddess Laxmi is worshipped, her blessings sought for a happy and prosperous new year.
This is the time to visit family and friends distributing sweets and wishing them well.
So here’s wishing you all a very happy Diwali !!!