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Deepavali

‘Deepavali’, the Hindu festival of lights, signifies the triumph of light over darkness, good over evil, knowledge over ignorance and hope over despair. In commemoration of the day, millions of lights illuminate housetops and buildings in a glorious celebration bedecked with fireworks, flowers and laughter.

The festival is also in commemoration of the Hindu god, Lord Krishna’s victory over the demon king Narakasura. Before his death, he requested that due to the suffering endured as a result of his actions, that his death be celebrated with colourful light.

Flames burn through the darkness, little clay lamps perfectly positioned for religious significance whilst some streets are dressed up in a luminous spectacle of decorative lights and colour. An explosion of fireworks, bathe the sky in vibrant hues. With family reunions galore, gifts are exchanged and mehendi decorations take place (temporary henna tattoos beautifully drawn on the body) over a 5 day period of grand festival preparations and rituals.

Artworks adorn the floor, vibrant geometric patterns or floral shapes beautifully drawn with coloured powder: an expression of culture and religion, the ‘Rangoli’ artwork is believed to attract the Hindu goddess of wealth and prosperity. Although the festival is mostly commemorated at home, devotees could engage in prayer at the kovil should they wish to do so. With the performance of a puja to Lord Krishna done at the kovil, non-Hindus or people from other faiths could delve into an upfront, fascinating experience of the reverence with which devotees commemorate the event and the pomp and pageantry which follows suit courtesy of the many firecrackers unleashed on the streets.

Interesting Facts

  • Hindus across the world celebrate ‘Deepavali’ in honour of the return of Lord Rama to an ancient city in India called Ayodhya following his victory over the demon king Ravana. On his return there was not much light, therefore the residents welcomed him by lighting lamps a tradition that continues to this day
  • There isn’t much difference between the rituals performed by Hindus in the North, South or Eastern regions of Sri Lanka
  • The festival commences on the day the goddess Lakshmi was born from an ocean of milk by the gods and the demons. The night of ‘Deepavali’ is the day Lakshmi chose Vishnu as her husband
  • With the festivities started off with an oil bath in the morning, it’s customary to wear new clothes, exchange gifts, perform puja to the goddess Lakshmi and visit the kovil
  • Sri Lankan Hindus follow the customs of South Indians
  • According to myths, ‘Deepavali’ might have originated as a harvest festival in Sri Lanka: hence, it is celebrated after the last harvest of the year

The festival holds prominence as a national festival of Sri Lanka and is celebrated irrespective of religious, racial and other differences. Members of the Sinhalese community join hands with their Tamil counterparts in commemoration. The festival is not limited to Hindus or Tamils as it’s a celebration of the victory of good over evil

Title image by: Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters

Type

Cultural and Religious

Date and Time

Oct 18, 2017
12:00am
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Location

Islandwide

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