It was a dark New moon night when having defeated the demon Ravana and completing 14 years of exile, Lord Ram returned to Ayodhya along with his wife Sita and brother Laxman. Igniting the dreary land with the historic victory, the return of the noble king marked a celebration. Thus, to commemorate the triumph of good over evil, people began the tradition of decorating their homes with oil lamps (diyas), and the celebration came to be known as Diwali or Deepavali which means ‘Festival of lamps/light’.
An electrifying atmosphere with sweets, music, and sumptuous food, what else do you need? Since it’s also the start of the Hindu New Year, it’s an excuse to buy new clothes, gorge yourself on sweets and meet long-lost aunts and cousins at the annual family bash. A time to revel in the company of loved ones, the celebration of Diwali goes on for a period of five days, beginning with Dhanteras, a day when it is considered auspicious to buy new utensils or coins made of precious metals, and ending with Bhaidooj, a day dedicated to brothers and sisters. Just like other parts of the country, Diwali in Uttar Pradesh is a grand affair. There is no dearth of enthusiasm and zeal when it comes to celebrating this festival in one of the biggest states of India. With lamps and lights lighting up cities and towns, fairs and festivities, firecrackers, and worshipping Goddess Lakshmi and Lord Ganesha, it is commendable how Uttar Pradesh, a large state with a skyrocketing population and diverse cultures, has kept the spirit and flavour of Diwali alive.
In Varanasi, the day of Diwali begins with people taking a dip in the Holy Ganges. After performing puja on the ghats, they light diyas (clay lamps) for aarti and let them float in the river. These millions of diyas actually create a dream-like mirage of the river coming to life. Hymns and chanting fill the air as the entire river lights up in a sea of flickering flames drifting gently along its surface, a picture that will move you regardless of your religious leanings or lack thereof. Indeed, Varanasi is worth a visit during Diwali, if only to see this particular site.
Similarly, Vrindavan and Mathura are some of the other cities of U.P. that celebrate Diwali in a manner larger than life. Like any other place, the cities wear a festive look, with colourful lights decorating the houses and the streets. Women adorn their homes with spectacular rangolis i.e. patterns of coloured powder and flower petals drawn at the doorsteps so as to welcome the goddess of wealth, Lakshmi. Some follow a tradition of putting a silver coin in a tumbler of milk, which is then sprinkled in all the rooms.
With the echoes of the aartis and the aroma of the mithai or sumptuous delicacies, the entire state cheers up amidst the colourful fireworks that dazzle the sky and turn it into a kaleidoscope of myriad hues. “Shopping, gambling, whitewashing and beautification of houses are the part and parcel of the Diwali celebrations. The festival is a symbol of happiness and prosperity”, says Ayush Srivastava, a resident of Lucknow. “Diwali is a period of merriment. And the day brings us the joy of being together with the entire family”, chimes in another local from the city.
Certainly, for zillions of people, Deepavali also symbolizes a time for family reunions when friends and relatives get together to celebrate the day with gaiety and boundless fervour. Regardless of how tough a year has been – the sights and sounds of Diwali, the love, camaraderie and good cheer that pervades the atmosphere, diminishes sorrows and manages to rekindle hope in the hearts of the people. Indeed, Diwali is a celebration of life and all the good that it has to offer, it is a time for togetherness and bonding. Exuberant family gatherings, good food, showers of blessings and presents, and the beautiful adornments with lights flickering into life altogether make Diwali a sparkling experience.