Why do we celebrate Diwali? How over the years, we have changed the meanings of Diwali Festivities
Gone were the days when the elders used to say, “Holi – Diwali sabse Milna-Julna Hota hai” (On Holi-Diwali, they get to meet their people) or “Holi – Diwali bado se mil kr ashirwad lena chaiye” (On Holi – Diwali, people should meet and seek blessings and best wishes from each other). Well, why are we saying so? Don’t people still go and meet their friends and relatives to say the Diwali greeting? Well, let’s see how the Diwali days look like.
If we look at the festival, it is not just the day of Diwali but is a week-long festival, and the festivity atmosphere starts to build right after the Karva Chauth itself. The five-day-long festival includes Dhanteras, Choti Diwali, Diwali, Bhai Dooj and Govardhan Puja. For the festival days, people generally buy new clothes, diyas and other puja related material, sweets, gifts for friends and family, and of course, some people don’t forget to buy the firecrackers. The customs include decorating the houses, making rangoli, doing pujas, and going to each other’s houses with gifts and sweets to seek Diwali Blessings, Right?
Well, we wonder how important has it been to seek Diwali blessings? During the last few years of Diwali, it has been our observation that the major idea behind visiting friends’ and family’s place is to give gifts. When people go out to buy Diwali gifts, they often prefer to buy a variety of gifts, which are of the different price range. Now, these gifts are supposed to get distributed among not just friends and family but with the associates, employees and other workers too. Well, we will come to that later. Lets first stick to family and friends During the Diwali days, precisely, one or two members of the family leave their houses with a handful of gifts that they prefer to deliver (give) to their loved ones just because they are supposed to be given. Now which relative/ friend gets what is mitigated by a few things-
– the social standard and class of the relative/ friend
– the gifts received for that relative/ friend, the previous Diwali
– the kind of hospitality they receive
Now, what happens on their visit?
Well, generally, as there are a lot of gifts that are to be distributed, people don’t prefer to spend a lot of time at one relative’s place. The relatives often serve with a tray filled with dry fruits which are specially plated for the guests who come to visit on Diwali. And while bidding goodbye, the relatives often give a gift as a token of love.
Well, this is the case for relatives, if we come to employees and other staff members, the gifts for them are often decided by the class and work position they hold. Just like the typical mentality of humans of judging the person by their work, here also, the gifting on Diwali is deeply associated with the designation the worker holds. A maid and a housekeeper are likely to get a sweet box of regular sweets while a worker on the executive level will get something at least more expensive than this.
Well, you must have been thinking what is wrong in all of this or why do we have a problem with this?
Well, we really would not have had a problem with this if the spirit of the festival wouldn’t have been maligned by this gift exchange ritual and class-based distribution. The second thing which disappoints us, on which we will come later, the tradition of fireworks.
The festival of Diwali is celebrated to mark the “victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance”. It is the day which is believed as the day on which Lord Ram came back to Ayodhya after 14 years of van vas. Diwali is the celebration of the same. Where the goddess of prosperity, Laxmi is worshipped, the houses are decorated with rangoli and diyas to aloud the victory of “the light”, “the good”, “the knowledge” over every evil. It is a festival of celebration and togetherness, where people are to spread positivity and prosperity.
For years, we have been celebrating this festival, and for years, we continued the tradition of visiting friends and relatives. But what has changed is the intent behind the ritual. Earlier, the meeting was for togetherness, gifts, a symbol of love; now have become a form of formality and a ritual of showing off their socio – economic status.
The Ritual of fireworks: Was that even a ritual in the traditional celebration?
And this socioeconomic status doesn’t remain restricted to gift distribution, it is even judged by the amount and the intensity of the fireworks used by people in their celebration. There are people who love flaunting the length of the garland crackers (ladis) or the intensity of their skyrockets. The more crackers, the greater and the happier and the lavish is Diwali. This is what the people believe. Well, in the first place, we wonder why people started associating crackers with Diwali celebration, because traditionally, the festival has been about Diyas only. The firecrackers were invented in China several years after when Lord Ram came back to Ayodhya. It is the idea of associating celebration with the term “Atishbazi” which literally means burning crackers in celebration.
Well, we wonder if this was the reason why the Ayodhyavasis celebrated Rama’s victory over evils, over ills and ignorance and darkness. With the revamping of Diwali meetings to gift distribution, the scud idea of the class divide, discrimination and showoff gets enforced. And with the celebration of the burning of firecrackers, we are giving ways to pollution and creating trouble for the future generation. Honestly, this was not the kind of celebration Ayodhya-vasi did, not something that lord Ram wanted and definitely not promoting the purpose of Diwali.
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