While the rest of the world is arguing about interest rates, politics and the global unemployment crisis, millions of Indians are presently celebrating Diwali — the most lavish and vibrant spiritual festival found anywhere on the planet.
What’s the most popular of all the South Asian festivals got to do with The Fish Society? A fair bit, actually. Sapna are the Indian company who look after all the technical stuff for the website, and the recent SEO project which Joleen has been working on inspired her to create this delightful rangoli drawing, typical of Diwali-style art and celebration. Thanks to Shekhar for sending it in (more about rangoli at the end of this post).
Diwali, which is celebrated every year between October and November – the specific date varies according to the Hindu calendar – is stunning. Dressed in white, people everywhere forget about their problems and dance, throwing powder colours of blue, yellow and intense red into the air, forming clouds which can be seen high above the ground. Inside the houses, altars are constructed – shrines to Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth – and in the offices, those in business start their new financial year with the promise of good things to come. But nowhere is Diwali more breathtaking than at the mighty river Ganges. Making their way to the river in heaving masses, people gather at its edge to sail lamps across its width (and if yours makes it all the way across then this is considered a very good thing). The word Diwali means row of lights, according to the Sanskrit word dipavali. As a result, millions of people know this infamous extended party as The festival of lights.
With such a unique atmosphere, it’s easy to see why it’s called the festival of lights. Within just a few hours, cities are converted into places of mass worship, and as night falls, shops, houses and public places are transformed with the use of divas – earthenware oil lamps, powered by mustard oil. Within 24 hours of the festival’s arrival, no area remains untouched, and legend has it that the lamps help to guide Lakshmi through the doors of people’s homes, where a pleasant reception awaits her.
Rangoli is also an artistic past-time which a great many people enjoy taking part in, and many of these images show the goddess Lakshmi holding a lotus or seated on one. Traditionally, the images are drawn on the floor, like the above picture. According to Joleen, this is only her second attempt at the technique, and one which The Fish Society is pleased to be a part of!