Diwali is not an Indian festival anymore. From Mauritius to Nepal, from Thailand to South Africa, the whole world is smitten by the festival of lights. Some countries like England and Australia make place for it on their official calendars. In this piece, we give you a quick roundup of how Diwali is celebrated around the world.
With the age of interconnectedness and social media, what were once local events and traditions have begun to assume global importance and acceptance. The festival of lights from India, Diwali, is one such. It used to be that only Indians used to know of and celebrate this festival, but as more and more Indians make their homes elsewhere, and with the documenting ability of today’s data-rich society, everyone around the world is celebrating Diwali with zest and gusto.
Here are a few ways Diwali is being celebrated in countries other than India.
About 63% of the population of Mauritius is of Indian origin, and 80% of these people follow Hinduism. Diwali symbolises the arrival of summer in this country, and beautifully lit earthen lamps are placed around the houses all over the island, turning it into a picturesque landscape. Sweets are prepared for the occasion, and people of other religions and cultural beliefs also join the Hindu community in celebrating the festival.
In a multicultural country like Australia, a country in which 100,000 Indians have settled over the years, Diwali ushers in large scale events such as food carnivals, Bollywood dance shows and fairs. Sydney and Melbourne are the cities in which most of the action happens, with the Opera House hosting a lamp-lighting ceremony in the last few years. So there has been official recognition of Diwali as a symbol of Australia’s multicultural image.
South Africa is home to the largest immigrant Indian population in the world. Most of the current Indians living in the country trace their origins back to Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Gujarat. Their celebrations of Diwali follow the Indian template and the Indian calendar. The rituals are the same, and they bring about the unity of different communities.
Diwali is celebrated at the House of Commons every year in England, which like in Australia accords it a status of official festival. Indians form the second largest ethnic minority group in Britain, and Diwali is one of the main events of the Indian calendar. The Diwali celebrations in Leicester City are particularly popular for the number of people they draw every year.
In Nepal, Diwali is called ‘Tihar’ and is celebrated over five days, not over two days like it is in India. Besides Goddess Lakshmi, Tihar makes it a point to celebrate animals such as cows, dogs and crows. It is customary in the Nepali community for the girls and boys to go singing to different houses and give the owner of the house blessings in return for either food items or money. A bit like trick or treat with some Indian flavour thrown in. On the fifth day, the festivities are brought to a close with the ‘Bhai Tika’ ritual, where sisters garland their brothers and adorn their foreheads with vermillion.