Diwali is undoubtedly one of the most important festivals celebrated across the world by Hindus. Spiritually, it marks the victory of good over evil, symbolized with lights winning over darkness. In mythological terms, it mostly makes a reference to return of lord Rama from his 14-yr exile after defeating and killing Ravana. By legend, it is the day to pray and thank for wealth and prosperity through Lakshmi Puja, where Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth is worshipped along with Ganesha, the lord believed to take away all obstacles and Saraswati, the Goddess of knowledge and learning.
Diwali is, hence, a major celebration event and some of its integral parts in modern popular culture are lights, firecrackers, clothes and jewelery, and of course food!
As the day comes near, the lights shine brighter every night.
Houses, streets and markets start glittering from a fortnight
before Diwali and are embezzled by cheer and color on everyone.
There are discounts and deals all around for happy shoppers as
there's a tradition to buy new things - right from new homes, new
cars to new clothes and jewelery, esp. on the first day of
celebrations called Dhanteras. In business communities, Diwali is
celebrated as New Year marked by the beginning of new business
In the build up to the day, people start visiting friends and family to exchange gifts. Sweets make an excellent gift to suit the occasion, apart from glittery boxes of dry fruits. Cashews, Pistachios, Almonds, Raisins, Walnuts, dried apricots etc are staples in these boxes.
People prefer to dress up in accordance with the tradition to
associate this festival with wealth, prosperity and the adorable
notion of prosperity attracting prosperity. People also like to
clean and decorate their homes as adages have told us that Goddess
Lakshmi is spotted in spotless homes. A beautiful branch out of
this tradition are Rangolis - colored dust and flower petals used
to make designs and patterns in the house verandahs to welcome
Goddess Lakshmi. Clay lamps and candles are lit outside the house,
now also accompanied by fancy lights and everything looks like
twinkling little stars.
While the celebrations begin before sunrise in the south of India, after the customary sesame oil bath, the north of India does majority of their Diwali celebration post sunset late into the night. Another joyous accompaniment to add to the lights are fireworks. Wide variety of colorful crackers and fireworks are on display in the skies to completely wipe off the effect of a no moon night. Enjoyed by kids and elders alike, modern eco-friendly varieties of these are being adopted for a safe and pollution free Diwali.
Of the many aspects to this festival, clearly a significant one
is food. And sweets are the heroes of the day. All that sweetness
helps add to the celebratory fervor in the air. Sweets like
Seera/Halwa, different type of Burfis, Jalebis, Rasmalais, Peda,
Gulab Jamun, Kalakand, Kheer are consumed across the country; with
a huge list of local specialties specific to every state in India.
But the king of the season is Laddoo. Offered during Lakshmi pooja,
these sweet round balls, possibly made from a variety of
ingredients like Motichoor/Boondi, Besan, Atta, Rava, and even dry
fruits are like drops of heaven in your mouth.
While major Diwali food mindshare is grabbed by sweets, snacks and savories also find their way in the feasts prepared and offerings for guests. Samosas, Kachoris, Dahi bhallas, Gathiyas, Murukkus & Namakpare, Aloo tikkis, Paneer Tikkas, Biryanis, Koftas, Pakodas and Pooris are only very few of an extensive list of dishes featuring on the Diwali dining table. Any of the above dishes could be turned the non-veg way, although usually, vegetarian food is consumed on Diwali. Diwali is a special day for Indians, that not only does it offer satiation for the heart through the food, but also satiation for the soul through the joy and happiness it brings.
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