Diwali is undoubtedly India’s most widely celebrated festival. Apart from the Hindu populace whose major festival it is, the Sikhs, and the Jains also celebrate Diwali or Deepawali. Religious connotations aside, it is a festival of good cheer, harmony, and fun – a time for families and friends to come together and celebrate the myriad colors of life. But like all other things in India, magic is often tinted by a shade of madness. If something as commonplace as a cricket match can evoke the fervency that shall put the most devout religious bigots to shame, we must allow Diwali to claim its share of fun. And just a touch of insanity. If you are still looking for reasons to celebrate Diwali this year, read on…
Well, it drips love. Or ghee, maybe
Because low-calorie, low-fat food is an alien concept when it comes to Indian festivities. Ghee dripping halwas and barfis, sinful gulab jamuns and laddus, smooth kheer and rasmalai, scintillating pethas and pedas, or sinful jalebis and malpuas – no other occasion gives you the perfect excuse to dig in and stuff yourself without a shadow of guilt. Even if your self-control hits a rare virtuous rank, the hordes of friends and relatives you visit are certain to take offense if you skip these delicacies.
With about 65.1 million diabetes patients, and another 77.2 million people suffering from pre-diabetes, India is quickly emerging as the diabetes capital of the world. And yet, why would one care with each household doling out an array of gastronomic delights over the festive season!
The sparkles and the twinkles
And because Diwali is the perfect opportunity. Or the perfect excuse. To buy gold – jewellery, coins, bars – oh, just about anything! Or maybe that superlative, sparkly diamond set you’ve been eyeing for a while now? After all, what will the women in the neighbourhood say if you do turn up without a new piece of bling this festive season? Your husband’s career stability or worse, the foundations of your very marriage may be the topic of gossip for weeks to come….
Over Diwali, India remains blissfully unscathed by trade deficit and import duty woes. In August 2014 alone gold imports hit a staggering USD 2 billion mark. And yet the luster of the yellow metal does not dim.
My heart goes boom, boom, boom…
Because Diwali is the only occasion you can indulge in high-decibel crackers and smoke-spewing fireworks. And because the only way you can prove your affluence is by setting off a string of crackers each making a lakh or so pops right at midnight! And don’t forget to ‘casually’ mention that your friend (illegally of course) brought in all your fireworks straight from Sivakasi (that’s vaguely somewhere south of the Vindhyas, right?)
In India air pollution is the fifth leading cause of death. Over 620,000 deaths occur nationwide due to air pollution-related diseases each year. Ambient noise levels during Diwali reach unprecedented levels. But since when did we start to place pollution or the environment over booming crackers?
Spring Cleaning. Every Autumn
Because we are magpies. And compulsive shoppers. And save up every bit of scrap – things that come ‘free’, things that we have received and intend to ‘recycle’, things that we simply do not have the heart to throw away! That old tablecloth that your mother embroidered before she got married, which you brought away ‘coz it’d make a dainty cushion cover, which is now an ineffective dust cloth – yes, because that needs to be discarded. “Spring cleaning” must come.
According to studies, the Indian online retail industry alone was estimated at USD 1 billion (about INR 6000 crore) during the Dussera-Diwali season a couple of years ago. And this is only a miniscule fraction of the estimated offline sales each year. Yes, we hoard!
The small matter of the money
Because we are puritan. And abhor betting at the races. And frown on those who buy a lottery. But you may be displeasing the Gods and Goddesses (each one of the 33,000 crore) if you do not “Muhurat trade” even if you have no clue how the markets move. Or bet an inane amount on Teenpatti or any such card game on Diwali night. Because gambling is a ritual, is it not? And who are you to defy such hallowed traditions? Or the Gods?
Goa, Sikkim, and Daman are the only three zones in the country where gambling is legally permissible. The casino market in these zones has been growing at 40% each year and is estimated at INR 500 crore. But hush-hush gambling is widely encouraged across the country on Diwali night. It is believed to bring luck. Even if you lose your underpants!
In high spirits
Because Diwali is not a ‘dry day’. And if you thought that had anything to do with the Met Office or the weatherman’s mood swings, you most certainly do not deserve to be called Indian. India has a million alcohol laws – from age to day of the week to celebration and restriction days. But in most states the day you are licensed to play with fire (literally) is not a dry day! So why not get a bit tipsy? And burn down a couple of houses while you’re at it?
Diwali burn accident statistics reveal that at least 50% of these can be prevented. Up to 73% of burns occur between ages 3 and 30. Conscription on alcohol and adequate preventive measures could go a long way in preventing many accidents. But hey, won’t that make it a wry, dry day?
Because the neighborhood Rangoli (no translation available) contest can evoke a level of envy, deceit, and ferocity that might put Ms. Universe contestants to shame. When you are done planning to outdo the neighbour’s décor, and lighting, and new household acquisitions with a stealth and adroitness that Mr. Bond may well emulate, it shall be time to attend to steady stream of a million guests. Not a hair out of place, managing the entertainment (read food), the errant gossips, and the leave application of the domestic helper – all with an unfailing smile – you are looking at becoming Mrs. Neighbourhood indeed.
Hindus worship Goddess Lakshmi, the giver of wealth and the deity of the house and hearth on Diwali. The Goddess bestows peace and prosperity, it is said. And even amidst the crazy bustling evening, do not fail to utter a silent prayer for the millions of women across the country, who suffer from abuse, lack of education, employment, and equality each day.
Diwali as a festival has a history which is rich in religious beliefs and traditions. Rooted in magnificent past and culture, Diwali finds mention in the most important of Hindu scriptures like the Skanda Purana and the Padma Purana. The ritual of celebrating Diwali by lighting lamps and distribution of sweets has been continuing since ages. People of India owing to the regional diversity celebrate Diwali for various reasons. The main and the most common reason remains the return of Lord Rama, Sita and Lakshmana from an exile of fourteen years. For years, Hindus have worshipped Goddess Lakshmi as many believe that she rose from the ocean on this sacred day and married Lord Vishnu. The spirit of Diwali continues in the Eastern regions where Bengalis worship Goddess Kali by observing Kali Puja as one of the major tradition of this celebration. Whatever beliefs and practices Diwali might be associated with, India as a nation twinkles on the night of Diwali when seen from an aerial view owing to the million oil lamps, lights and most importantly an atmosphere of jubilation. More