The Observer report on Diwali in London

October 24, 2000

It's some measure of the Indian presence in Britain that a major newspaper has carried a report telling its readers what Diwali, the Indian festival of lights, is all about.

The Observer, which circulates around a million copies in Britain, has carried a report in its Sunday edition on the ten key things about Diwali, which falls on Thursday. "Hindus around the world light oil lamps, feast, set off fireworks and exchange gifts to celebrate the beginning of the five-day festival of lights - Diwali," the newspaper report says.

It goes on further to inform its readers that, "there are regional variations but for all Hindus, the festival is a symbolic representation of the lifting of spiritual darkness. Homes are cleaned thoroughly and windows opened to welcome Lakshmi, the goddess of light and wealth."

The newspaper report by staffer Dorota Nosowicz is meant for British readers, who don't know enough about Diwali. But the report, which lists five days for Diwali might contain some news even for Indian readers.

The ten key things about Diwali the newspaper lists are:

  1. Diwali, or Deepawali, literally means rows of diyas (clay lamps).
  2. It also marks the beginning of the Hindu New Year and Lord Ganesha, the elephant-headed Hindu god, is worshipped.
  3. It is considered a positive time for shopping, starting new ventures, business deals and house warmings.
  4. Day One: Dhanteras, heralds the approaching festival of Diwali. Doorways are hung with mango leaves and marigold flowers. Homes are lit with oil-filled diyas to welcome guests.
  5. Day Two: Chaturdashi. Doorways are lit up and decorated with Rangoli or traditional patterns to welcome the Hindu goddess of wealth, Lakshmi.
  6. Day Three: New Year is celebrated with new clothes and jewels, visiting relatives and business colleagues to give sweets and gifts. It is also the last day of the financial year in traditional Hindu business. Businessmen open new books of accounts and worship the goddess Lakshmi.
  7. Day Four: The start of the new business year. Accounts are settled andnew books are opened.
  8. Day Five: Bhai Dooj, a day dedicated to sisters. All brothers visit their sisters with gifts and sweets. Sisters put tilak (sacred mark) on their brothers' foreheads.
The last two key things offered are an announcement of a Diwali fair and an offer to send Diwali greetings through the newspaper.

- Harsha Kumar, London, UK

The views of this column are the author's own, and do not necessarily represent the views of NRI Online.

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