Dubai: Diwali, the festival of lights, is being celebrated by Indian expats with fervour after last year’s sombre affair in the wake of the pandemic.
Simran Sabharwal, 47, is excited that her daughter Sanchiti is visiting her and the family from the UK. “I am so happy that my daughter is here as Diwali is incomplete when the family is not around,” she said.
She said every year the family decorates the home with lights. “We don’t hire anyone to do the job. We put the lights up by ourselves. It is our family time for bonding.”
What is Diwali?
Diwali is a widely celebrated festival in India. It falls in the lunar month of Kartika which usually falls mid-October and mid-November. Spiritually, the festival denotes good over evil, victory of light over darkness. “In fact, in Gujarat, Diwali has a more spiritual significance,” explained Pooja Gosalia, who hails from Mumbai. “Besides the regular prayers, we also place books for prayers. B0usiness professionals and traders keep their accounting books in the prayer room to seek the Almighty’s blessings. Goddess Lakshmi is invoked for prosperity for the entire year.”
Pooja said preparations for Diwali started days earlier. “We typically clean our houses. Back in India, people renovate their houses, paint them afresh and buy new furniture to welcome Diwali. The homes are decorated with lamps and lights.”
Simran said another colourful tradition is drawing Rangoli-a traditional Indian decoration and pattern made with ground rice. “In a fun way, friends compete among themselves to draw the best Rangoli for Diwali,” said Lakshmi Narayan who hails from Chennai.
Among south Indians, Diwali celebrations begin a day before. “Our prayers and lights are on from early morning. Back in India, you will hear the fire-crackers in the morning. It signifies the start of the festivities.”
Pooja also said there is a great social aspect to Diwali. “It is a time when we get together with friends and family. Families unite from wherever they are in the world. We buy new clothes. In many low-income families back in India, Diwali is the only time, people buy new clothes.”
The five-day-long festival is usually celebrated 20 days after Dussehra.
Dhanteras marks the first day of the festival. “The second day is Naraka Chaturdashi. The third day is the day of Lakshmi Pooja,” explained Lakshmi.
Kinnari Pathak, another Indian expat, said food is a key aspect of Diwali celebrations. This year she is preparing a number of savouries and sweets. “The highlights of this year is Kaju Barfi, mathiya, chorafari, satpadi. lapsi and motichoor ladoo which are all indian delicacies.”
She said food is a way to connect with family and friends.