I have the pleasure of welcoming Serena Fairfax to Chat About Books today. Serena has very kindly written a guest post about Diwali to share with you all.
DIWALI…lights, fireworks, action
a guest post by Serena Fairfax
The heavy monsoon rains that pounded the earth have dwindled to a trickle, fields have been harvested, and the year slides into autumn. That’s when the thoughts and minds of Hindus in India and the diaspora turn to celebrating Diwali which symbolises the victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance.
It’s a five-day long festival associated with a variety of traditions, attributes and motifs none more so than with Lakshmi, the glamorous, goddess of wealth, fortune and prosperity, —typically shown as mounted on a lotus flower— the goddess who leads one to one’s goal, and the woman who chose Vishnu, a principal deity, as her husband. The belief is that she was born from the furious churning, by both gods and demons, of the cosmic ocean of milk.
Another tradition links Diwali with the Ramayana, an ancient Sanskrit epic. Here, Rama, of royal blood and descended from the sun, and his beloved wife Sita with their loyal followers return to India after 14 years enforced exile abroad when Rama’s heroic army of monkeys —commanded by Hanuman, the monkey god— finally defeats the evil genius of Ravana (he of ten heads and twenty arms) who’d abducted Sita.
As with Christmas, when Diwali approaches, householders go into a frenzy of activity. Homes are cleaned to an inch of their life and repainted. Diyas (small clay oil lamps with cotton wicks) are bought and lit and temples, rooftops, balconies, verandahs, doorways and drives twinkle and sparkle in the unfathomable night sky. Rangoli — a variety of designs made from coloured sand, rice or flower petals and usually done by girls and women — decorate floors. And Diwali wouldn’t be Diwali without the invariably fabulous firework displays.
People don their smartest clothes, offer puja (prayers) to Lakshmi, invite guests home, share mithai (delicious confectionery and dessert) and sumptuous meals while exchanging gifts with family and friends.
Farmers calculate the yield of the harvest and give thanks to Lakshmi; traders, businessmen and shopkeepers balance their books at Diwali time and calculate how much they have profited, or lost, during the year and everyone prevails on Lakshmi for her blessing and for better luck in the coming year.
Diwali — the word is derived from the Sanskrit and means a row of lights — is traditionally big-spending time. People splurge on buying jewellery, gold, new furniture, new cars and equipment; in the countryside, rural villages hold melas (fairs) where craftsmen and artisans exhibit and sell their wares. It’s a truly exciting, colourful festival so doesn’t hesitate if you’re invited to celebrate it with friends and neighbours of Indian descent.
Thank you, Serena!
I spent my childhood in India, qualified as a Lawyer in England and joined a London law firm.
Some of my novels have a strong romantic arc although I burst the romance bubble with one quirky departure. Other novels pull the reader into the dark corners of family life and relationships. I enjoy the challenge of experimenting and writing something different.
My short stories and a medley of articles feature on my blog, and I review crime fiction and thrillers for Promoting Crime Fiction.
Fast forward to a sabbatical from the day job when I traded in bricks and mortar for a houseboat which, for a hardened land lubber like me, turned out to be a big adventure.
A few of my favourite things are collecting old masks, singing and exploring off the beaten track.
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