Diwali, as we know it – ‘The festival of lights’ – is a time of joyous celebrations. For many Parsis, this festival like many others, has slowly but surely seeped into our culture and routines. The appeal of enthusiasm and optimism that this festival heralds is enough to draw us in. But add food, lights, sweets, exchange of gifts and a chance to dress up, and you have us Bawajis roped in, enjoying this spectacular festivity, wholeheartedly.
As fire worshippers ourselves, we resonate with the essence of Diwali – the victory of light over darkness, good over evil. It represents a similar thought, woven by a similar thread. The notion of light triumphing over darkness is found in many religions, but at its core, Diwali encapsulates it like none other. Widely observed among more than a billion people from a variety of faiths across India and the world, the five days of Diwali are marked by prayer, feasts, fireworks, family gatherings and charitable giving. For some Diwali marks the beginning of the New Year. Indians across the world make their way back home like flocks of migratory birds, to enjoy the festivities with friends and family, in celebration of Diwali over five days…
Dhanteras: The first day of Diwali, people perform pooja, tea lights, candles, diyas are placed in entryways of homes. As a community that is all enveloping, I remember how festive and wonderful this day felt. We bought kitchen utensil every year and washed our silver coins and jewelry, soaking them in the auspicious milk, turmeric and red vermillion mixture. During the years that were fruitful and goddess Lakshmi was kind, we’d indulge in purchasing some extravagant piece of shiny new jewelry, treasuring those memorable moments, where mothers would buy us tiny gold dot earrings or little pendants of Asho Farhovars, thus amalgamating the two religions.
Narak Chaturdashi: The second day is celebrated by many staying home, decorating floors with flowers, lamps and intricate patterns made from coloured powder (rangoli); and exchanging sweets with family and friends.
Laxshmi Puja: This is the main celebration and is the most auspicious time and day to worship goddess Lakshmi. Families dress up and gather for a prayer to honour Her. This is followed by a mouth-watering feast, spectacular fireworks displays, and more festivities. Though the date of Lakshmi Puja changes every year, it’s always held on the night of the new moon preceding the Hindu month of Kartika. People wear new clothes and host worship services to Lakshmi and Lord Ganesh. Sweets, songs and robust family get-togethers is the order of the day.
Govardhan Puja: This day is associated with Lord Krishna and is the Gujarati New Year. The mountains of sweets and food offerings by the jovial beloved Gujarati community is akin to our very own sev-dahi and ravo. Now we truly do not require a day dedicated to indulge in either, but in the spirit of the festivity, we definitely do!
Bhai Dooj: The last day is dedicated solely to celebrating siblings. Traditionally, brothers visit sisters with gifts, and receive sweets to mark the protection and love a brother offers his sister. As Parsis, we typically don’t much celebrate this day. Could it be that we never imbibed the significance of this day or was it really just another excuse to not celebrate the terrors and the brats who made all the days of our childhoods so darn difficult!? But jokes apart, over the years, I remember the festival of Rakhi being special and celebrated for bond siblings!
Diwali is indeed the festival of lights… abundant exuberance, perfect bonhomie, great love, sparkling optimism and of course expanding waistlines. It is the time to welcome the new, respect the old, honour the gods, pay homage to friends, family and all our fellow beings. It is the festival of giving and receiving of gifts and love, compassion and understanding. It symbolizes the triumph of the human spirit. Shiny, dazzling, soft and loud, this festival of sparkling firecrackers and fiery skies fills our heart with joy every single time.