Diwali is one of the most celebrated festivals in the world. Apart from India, it is celebrated in many countries, which have large Indian immigrant populations. Some of these migrations happened so long ago that Diwali is a major holiday while in the more recent ones like in the United States of America, Australia, and the UK, the celebrations are limited to the people who have moved there recently. India is a country with huge population and diversity. Every community celebrates Diwali in different ways. Here are a few different ways in which the same festival is celebrated by different people.
Kaunria Kathi – Odisha
The state of Odisha has a unique history. Owing to its tribal heritage, people in Odisha celebrate Diwali a little differently. They celebrate it to ask the ancestors for blessings. One unique ritual performed as part of the Diwali celebration is the ‘kaunria kathi.’ It is believed that the ancestors reside in the part of the sky most visible as the sun begins to move towards the Tropic of Capricorn. People burn stems of jute to invite the ancestors to descend from the spiritual sky and bestow blessings upon them.
Diyari – Sindhi
The Sindhi community celebrates the customs and traditions similar to others but have developed some of their own ritual worship of their own. They also call it by a different name– Diyari. During the Lakshmi puja they wash gold and silver coins in unboiled milk. After the puja, each person picks a coin and lightly taps it against their teeth. They chant the phrase “Laakshmi aayi, danat vaai,” meaning Lakshmi has returned and poverty has left. After all you can’t eat money, can you?
Hari Diwali – Malaysia
There are many different Hindu communities that are part of Malaysia’s diverse culture. They come from different ethnic backgrounds like Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Hari Diwali, as they call it, is a national holiday there and is celebrated with much pomp. People take a traditional oil bath before breakfast. People who celebrate this festival invite their Malay and Chinese friends into their homes for a meal.
Divali – Trinidad
Between 1845 and 1917 about 1,43,000 Indians were shipped from modern day Bihar and Orissa to the Caribbean island of Trinidad. They went there to work on the sugarcane plantations after all the slaves were emancipated in the British Caribbean in 1838. The Indo–Trinidadians (people who are from Trinidad whose families are from India) celebrate Divali like it is celebrated here. In 1966 the government declared it a national holiday and from then on people have begun to worship for the whole 9 days.
Bali Pratipada – Bali
It is interesting to note how legends and myths take form in different cultures. You may have heard about the festival Onam. Bali celebrates Diwali as the return of the demon king Bali Pratipada to his earthly realm every year. Sounds familiar? Think South India.
Tihar – Nepal
Diwali is celebrated as ‘Tihar’ in Nepal. It is celebrated to honour the goddess of wealth, Lakshmi and god of prosperity, Ganesh.
After a yagna performed by Bali, Vishnu appears to the king as a brahmin named Vamana and asks him for the amount of land he can cover in three steps. After taking his true form, Vishnu takes two steps and covers all of heaven and earth. Bali offers his head as a place for Vishnu to place his third step. In doing so, he is cast into patalaloka. As a reward for his devotion, Bali is allowed to return to earth for 1 day every year. The Hindus of Bali believe that by lighting lamps they are dispelling evil and the same ignorance that led their beloved king into the netherworld.
This is the same story behind Onam, a festival marking the new year in Kerala. However they celebrate it with flowers and a grand luncheon.