Diwali, the ‘festival of lights’, is the most popular and the biggest religious celebration in India when the moonless night is complemented with the homes, offices, institutions and the neighbourhoods being enlightened with bright lights, diyas and candles.
Diwali is not considered to be just a festival, it is rather a celebration which began in Ayodhya to honour the return of the Hindu God Lord Ram from his exile after rescuing his wife -Sita- by defeating Ravan.
At that time, the celebration was limited to just lighting the earthen lamps, candles and that too in the whole of India but, with the passing time, the celebration has evolved, the Indian populous celebrates differently now. The lamps still enlighten the shadowy areas of our houses but several states celebrate Lord Ram’s ‘homecoming’ rather differently from the other.
1. UTTAR PRADESH
I will commence from the place where Diwali began, the home of Lord Ram Ayodhya (Uttar Pradesh). In this city, the celebrations are widely commemorated with utmost happiness and enthusiasm. But if you move further south, to Varanasi -largest state in India, you would be spellbound to see how Diwali is celebrated there. The evening begins with the Ganga Aarti at the end of which thousands of people brighten the Ganga with floating diyas on her surface. Then they welcome Diwali with firecrackers and wide smile upon their faces.
When Lord Ram was in exile for 14 years, he stayed majorly in a place close to Nasik in Maharashtra and the way this state celebrates on this occasion is completely different from how people in Varanasi celebrated it. The evening is devoted to Laxmi Pujan and a belief that Goddess Lakshmi visits every household and bless the inhabitants with wealth and prosperity. There are various delicacies such as Shev, Chakali, Anarse, Karanji which are served during the celebration. Here too the neighbourhood is enlightened.
3. TAMIL NADU
In Tamil Nadu, the celebrations are totally different. Where in other parts of India the celebrations begin in the evening, in Tamil Nadu the celebrations usually end. The Tamilians usually awake on this day during the early hours and take a traditional Oil bath after which they wear new clothes and take a tonic called ‘Deepavali Lehiyam’ before commencing with the feast. Then, begins the bursting of crackers and by the time the sun sets, the celebrations are officially over. Also, A major part of India celebrates Diwali as a homecoming of Lord Ram but in Tamil Nadu majority of the Tamilians celebrate this day as the death of a feared demon known as Naraksura by the hands of Lord Krishna.
Now, moving on to the east where West Bengal is located. In this state, this auspicious day of Diwali is regarded as Kali Puja (Kali: an avatar of Durga). On this day, Bengalis gather at nearest neighbourhood venues and sacrifice a goat that is later to be feasted upon. After this event, several prayers and rituals begin which goes on for the later part of the night. Each and every house will be adorned with a Rangoli made from rice and diyas. Firecrackers are burnt here too but only to welcome the Goddess Kali.
5. ANDHRA PRADESH
While in Tamil Nadu and several other parts of India Diwali is celebrated to mark the death of Narakasura, in Andhra Pradesh the whole scene is actually enacted as a theatre or a drama show. There is one protagonist who portrays Satyabhama (Lord Krishna) who killed the demon and an effigy of Narakasura, stuffed with firecrackers, is set up and burnt on this day (just like Dussehra). Then begins the fireworks and the feast. Also, people give festivities to their neighbours and relatives. The Shopkeepers spend a lot in decorations to attract customers whom they consider as Gods on this auspicious day.
This is how different states in India celebrate Diwali differently. However, the most common of all are the firecrackers. We know profoundly well that these hurt our environment and even our health but still, we consider a celebration without firecrackers as mundane. The apex court of India (Supreme Court) has banned firecrackers entirely in Delhi-NCR, this is a praiseworthy step but we would have to cross the borders and implement it in the other countries as well. Do not wait for an authority to overpower you consider the human values at least.