In honour of Lord Rama and Sita, who returned to their kingdom after 14 years of exile, and were guided home by a row of lamps that the people lit to welcome them home; this gusto-filled celebration sees an abundance of lights, traditional sweets, and get-togethers that are marked with fervour and excitement.
A five-day celebration, the first day of Diwali is Dhanteras, an invitation to wealth and prosperity in the house that is welcomed with new utensils. The second day is Naraka Chaturdashi, the day Lord Narakasur was defeated by Lord Krishna. Then follows Amavasya, the new moon day dedicated to Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth. The fourth day of Diwali is known as Padwa, and honours the love and mutual devotion between husband and wife, and the last day is Bhai Duj, a celebration of a brother’s and sister’s relationship.
You may find yourself referring to Diwali as the festival of flavours instead of the festival of lights, and I don’t blame you. Each region has its own interpretations of myths and stories and all these are woven together with a feast influenced by the local produce of the area. Delhi and Lucknow are famous for kheel batasha (popped rice and hollow sugar candy) to worship Annapurna, the goddess of anna (rice or grain). You will also find a variety of dry fruits in different sweets and savouries across the country, and favourites include mewa bati, kaju, badam or pista katlis, besan ke ladoo, shakkarpare, balushahi and a lot more.
Typically, our Indian celebrations commemorate a tale that is a part of the festival. And so too with Diwali, you will find the legend of the demon Narakasura being slayed by Lord Krishna being played out through burnt effigies, fruit crushed under foot and Lord Krishna’s favourite meal of poha (flattened rice) with five accompaniments in Goa. In Uttar Pradesh, the auspicious sooran (elephant foot yam) is said to invoke Goddess Lakshmi’s blessings.
To me, the slaying of Narakasura is symbolic of slaying our inner demons that are impediments to our evolution and prosperity. I hope this Diwali, the light shines bright in each and every one of us as we conquer our inner demons.
The light is within you; all you need to do is ignite the flame.