Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Deepavali. Little India

Deepavali, Festival Of Lights.

Deepavali or Diwali translates as "row of lights" and is also known as the Festival of Lights. It is the most important Hindu festival marking the Indian New Year. Deepavali celebrates good overcoming evil (light over darkness) and last for 5 days. It is celebrated on the 15th day of Kartika in the Hindu calendar, which falls in October/November. This year Deepavali is on 2 November and is a public holiday.

One of the popular tales to explain the origin of Deepavali is that Narakasura tyrannically ruled his kingdom so his people asked Lord Krishna for help. Lord Krishna subsequently killed Narakasura in a battle. When he returned to the kingdom it was the night of the new moon and everything was in darkness, so the people lit lamps to celebrate his victory, hence the lighting of lamps, candles etc and the name Festival of Lights.

Sadly I haven't had many opportunities to take in the celebrations this year, apart from visiting the Festival Village, but hopefully I will be able to enjoy some of the activities in future years. As mentioned the streets are lit up, this year this runs from 27 Sept until 17 November so plenty of time for anyone here to go and visit (we shall be away from this weekend on holiday so will miss the climax on the 2nd) Indeed I haven't had the opportunity to visit in the evening so have only seen the lights during the day. These are decorated in vibrant colours and if you look closely many are decorated using old CDs. I wonder if school children have been involved?

On the run up to Deepavali there is also a Festival Village which is an onslaught of colour, sounds and smells. There are thousands upon thousands of hanging garlands, which can be quite difficult to dodge as you walk down the bazaar. Its unbelievably crowded but great fun. There are stalls selling extremely sweet smelling flower garlands which are used during prayers. It is worth standing and watching these being made, very intricate and done at such speed. If you visit Little India at any time of year you will see these stalls along the roads with these garlands being made and for sale. I have been tempted to buy some but to be honest not sure what I would do with them in the condo. For sale in the bazaar are saris, lamps, jewellery and an amazing amount of arts and crafts -  I could spend a fortune but have been very good.... this year! Amongst these trinkets there is of course food, lots of food. These sweets represent the sweetness and happiness in your life and are also offered to deities. 

Throughout the build up there are family activities, cultural performances and on the 1st November, on the eve of Deepavali, there will be a countdown concert at Race Course Road, ushering in the Festival of Lights. If you get a chance get down there and experience this vibrant festival. Back in the UK I had heard of Deepavali, and of course knew people that celebrated it, but I had no idea how magical it could be.

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