Diwali The Festival of Lights and Feasting

Diwali : What is The Significance of This Festival of Lights & Feasting?

And so Dussehra has left and brought in its wake the luminous delights of Diwali, the festival of lights: this year, the festivities start with Dhanteras.happy diwali
This is when India comes alive with the chiming of temple bells, the bursts of fireworks, the sparkle of oil lamps and the twinkle of fairy lights. Homes are decorated with flower garlands and bedecked with elaborate rangoli patterns – it is as if the country has adorned herself in an ephemeral but radiant cloak.

How it All Start\Born

A very long time ago, Lord Rama fought a furious, pitched battle against Ravana, who had kidnapped his virtuous wife, Sita. Ram won, and returned home with his wife and brother, Laxmana. Overjoyed, his subjects lit the way with heaps of oil lamps, thus paving the way for the lighting of diyas for all Diwalis henceforth. The lights also symbolize the victory of light over darkness, of good over evil. During Diwali, worshipers pray to Lakshmi (the goddess of wealth) and Ganesha (the lord of good fortune).

Some days after Diwali, on Kartik Purnima, it is said that the Gods descend on the holy Ganga River to celebrate Dev Deepawali (the Diwali of the Gods). It is on this day that Varanasi comes alive. Pilgrims throng the holy city, submerging themselves in the river. At night, the ghats shimmer and shine with the gleam of a thousand oil lamps and the air is perfumed with the scent of incense. It is an extraordinary spectacle. It’s really too good.

Diwali Feasting

In Rajgarh, Diwali food is irrevocably entwined with its extravagant card parties. Today, all sorts of fancy dishes are serve at the parties. But “My happiest memories are of me as a little boy, going with my grandma to Gantaghar bajar to buy sweets,” says Om Swami. Who now lives in the Rajgarh. Kheel batasha and khilona i.e. sugar crafted into animal shapes, was an inescapable part of growing up in Rajgarh, and sales would soar during Diwali season.

This was (and is) also the season for meals, stocked with the lawalas selling all manner of chaat, popcorn – the yellow popcorn trussed up tightly in plastic bags and candyfloss vendors hawking their lurid wares. Markets overflow with vendors selling clay and papier mâché toys for girls and boys and clay diyas. Shop shelves brim with pinni (dry fruit mithai), fudgy mohanthalKaju Barfi sheathed in a thin layer of vark, jalebis, laddoos etc. At Diwali, it doesn’t matter whether you are vegetarian or not – everyone is united over their love of sweets.

happy diwali

indian festival diwali

For Maharashtrians.

The highlight of Diwali food is the sweet-and-savoury breakfastfaral, as good as any banquet – shingris, (baked or deep-fried dumplings with a stuffing of fresh or desiccated coconut), various types of ladoos, the crescent-shaped karanjis, flaky ghee-soaked shankarpale, crunchy chivda, hot chaklis eaten with loni (white homemade butter); sweet, flaky chirote dusted with icing sugar and kept crisp or drenched in syrup; the biscuity anarsa made from rice-flour and jaggery. Often, dishes of pohewere also prepared as part of the breakfast, made in dozens of creative ways; pohe eaten with curds, pohe infused with tamarind, pohe cooked with with fresh coconut, pohe soaked in milk.

The preparations for Diwali begin weeks before the festival itself. My friend Nitin swami remembers how, as a child, her mother would start slaving away in the kitchen making faral, at least a week before Diwali day. “She used to deep fry the diamond-shaped namakpare, chaklis and finally prepare tasty ladoos, then hide them away carefully in big jars. My brother and I were exceptionally greedy children and once, we finished the entire jar of chaklis before Diwali itself,” she laughs. “It was the most wonderful celebration though. After the naivedyam (offering to the gods), we used to fall upon the faral.”

Meanwhile, my Jaipur friend Navneet Sing recalls a similar spread laid out by his mother on Diwali. “We used to wake up early in the morning, anoint ourselves with oils and dress up in new clothes. Mum would make lots of fresh, hot snacks that we would eat through the day. My favourite was the pillowy-soft, sweet badusha, which she would garnish with chopped pistachios.”

Joint family

In the days of the joint family, all the ladies of the house would sit together and prepare a grand Deepawali namkeen (snacks), a veritable feast of sweets and savories. There would be coils of then kuzhal made by frying rice flour and urad dal; fried murukku(in various shapes); spicy kara sev; a spicy, dark concoction called Deepawali marundhu; golden ribbon pakoda made with chickpea and rice flour; crispy, puri-like thattai and chivda-like Madras mixture. To satisfy one’s sweet tooth, there would berawa and besan laddoos, Mysore pak, the aforementioned badusha, halwas and piping hot jangiris (imartis) made with urad dal and drenched in sugar syrup.

The Gujarati version of these snacks is call ed Farsan.

One of my favourites among the Diwali spread is the ghugra or gujia, moon-shaped pastries. That are usually stuffed with green peas and sometimes coconut laced with cardamom. The ghugra looks and tastes similar to the Maharashtrian karanji. Crunchy chakris and mathia (a sort of spicy fried papad), the wafer-like fafra (a close relative of the Tamilian ribbon murukku), kachoris and the intriguing cholafali – savoury-spicy flour fingers are also offer as part of Diwali farsan.

In Kolkata, the festivities are focus on Kali Puja, which occurs around the same time as Diwali. Traditional Bengali bhog such as khichuri, kosha mangsho, mutton curriesare eaten at this time with mishti to sweeten the mouth. The perfect end to the meal!
happy diwali
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