When I was growing up (as a young girl) in Mumbai, India, Diwali was a holiday of national significance. Diwali, or Dipawali as the also call it, means “a row of lights.”
And all over India people celebrate by lighting dyas, and feasting with family and friends. It is a celebration of hopeful times, and triumph of good over evil. It is very much a Hindu festival, but is has a significance for people of all religions, including Muslims like me.
Here’s what the city looks like during Diwali: from the poorest Hindu house, to the richest house, all are lit up with “dyas” – oil lamps. The entrances to their houses are adorned with patterns drawn in chalk called Rangoli.
My father owned a business, and businesses started their account books at Diwali time. Every year in November, our entire family would go to his shop. And each member wrote in each account book using an ink pen. Diwali is associated with the Goddess of wealth, and so to start the business year around Diwali brought prosperity or good luck. His shop was in the business section of Bombay, and all the businesses were lit up for Diwali.
What a fabulous sight it was! It looked comparable to the festivities in America on July 4th and Christmas.
This year, Diwali takes place on November 13, 2012. Diwali festivals can run from three to five days; the date is a little different each year (similar to how the dates of Chinese New Year and Easter vary each year; the date depends on the Hindu calendar). In 2013, Diwali will be held on November 3.
Libraries holding a family Diwali program can find many book suggestions, crafts, and activities on the following websites:
Posted by Marya Kurwa, Richmond Public Library, Calif.