The weather is dry and bright. The people are gathering their diyas, cooking like crazy, and preparing for the influx thousands of tourists and the homecoming of far-flung loved ones. All of Mumbai, indeed all of India, is full to bursting with anticipation. This can only mean one thing: Diwali is upon us!
Often known (and literally translated) as the Festival of Lights, Diwali is one of the most sacred and beloved events in the Hindu calendar. Though it’s officially a holiday in 11 other countries (and one province in Pakistan), Diwali is most lavishly celebrated in India and Mumbai, its largest city. While the scripture behind Diwali varies between Hindu traditions, all celebrate a common theme: the power of humankind, guided by the light of self-control, furthered knowledge and compassion for others, to triumph over darkness and evil. In many traditions, Diwali marks the veneration of Lakshmi, Goddess of Wealth and Prosperity, and Dhanvantari, God of Hope and Healing.
With such a meaning, you’d expect bursts of color and light as far as the eye can see, and Diwali doesn’t disappoint! The whole of India hangs diyas, or colored lights, outside windows and doorways; they burn throughout the festival nights. Colorful floor decorations called rangoli dot the floors of homes and businesses. The streets are ablaze with lights, fireworks, and colored powder and abuzz with shopping and celebration akin to the West’s Christmas observance.