The Festival of Lights is here. Let’s take a look at how it is celebrated.

Like most festivals, Diwali too has many legends backing its celebrations. The most popular of the lot is the return of Lord Rama with his queen Sita and brother Lakshman from their 14-year-long exile after successfully vanquishing demon king Ravana. The lighting of the lamps during this festival is a tradition that many believe was started by the people of Ayodhya, the capital of Rama’s kingdom, who lit up the entire city with earthen lamps to celebrate their king’s return.

The other reasons to celebrate Diwali would be to commemorate the marriage of Goddess Lakshmi with Lord Vishnu, the killing of the evil king Narakasura by Lord Krishna and the return of the Pandavas (Mahabaratha) from exile.

Besides, it is a day many cultures devote to the celebration of the elephant-headed Lord Ganesha, or as in Bengal, dedicated to Goddess Kali.

For Jains, Diwali is the day Lord Mahavira attained nirvana or spiritual enlightenment. And for Buddhists, especially Newar Buddhists, it is significant as the day when Emperor Ashoka converted to Buddhism, and hence the day is observed as Ashok Vijayadashami.

Decoration ideas

This is a time when the house is cleaned and dusted, and that includes your room! But besides just helping keep your house neat and tidy, why not decorate it with some painted diyas and handmade streamers.

What you can do

Hand-painted lamps: Ask your parents to buy you some earthen lamps from the local market. Bring out your poster paints, brushes and lots of creativity to give the dull brown lamps a colourful makeover. You can even decorate them with glitter, artificial pearls or decorative flowers or stones.

Streamers: Anything from sea shells, old CDS, bangles to paper cuttings can make for a wonderful streamer. All you have to do is source them and string them together with twine, glue and scissors in the case of paper cuttings.

Rangoli: If you are no good at drawing a good kolam or any figure, ask an adult to help you draw the desired outline with a piece of chalk or the traditional rice powder. Fill the insides, with colour powder that are especially available for rangoli, or colour mixed with rock salt or flowers for a traditional rangoli. Use your imagination for the colour or materials to be used as fillers. For instance, if it is a flower that you have drawn, fill each petal in a different colour or texture. If you want to get really creative, you could use recycled or waste materials like colourful magazine pages and crayon shavings as fillers.

These apart, you can also look up craft books and websites for more ideas like paper lanterns, do-it-yourself candles, paper flowers, door hangers, and more. These also make for wonderful gifts that can be given to guests on Diwali day.

Fireworks

We cannot imagine a Diwali without fireworks; its colours paint the skies and sounds fill our ears. The most popular of the lot are rockets, flower pots, chakras, sparklers and the noisy “bombs” that come packed in varying decibels.

On the flip side, it is because of this noise, we have to be careful about not causing a nuisance by bursting crackers at untimely hours or near hospitals and homes for the elderly. Pets need special care too during Diwali as many are intimidated by the sound and lights.

Some do and don’ts:

Make sure there’s always an adult around to keep an eye and help you in case of emergency.

Fireworks must be lit only outdoors.

Wear fitting clothes and avoid materials like nylon that catch fire easily.

Keep a bucket of water/ sand and a first aid kit handy

Make sure you dispose the used/lit fireworks properly

Never bend over a firework while lighting it.

Never fool around with fireworks or try to light them in your hand.

Celebrations

A common practice during Diwali is lighting lamps (earthen, brass or even candles) and arranging them in and around the house, hence giving the festival its name — Festival of Lights.

The day typically begins with an oil bath, followed by wearing new clothes and receiving the blessing of elders. In some cultures families also indulge in harmless gambling.

Typically on Diwali, people share their happiness during the day by exchanging sweets with neighbours, friends and relatives. The most popular, of course, is the fireworks display.

But a more elaborate celebration of Diwali lasts for five days, that involves a customary purchase of gold on the first day, to observing a Goverdhan Pooja, and finishing off with BhaiDooj/Bhratri Dooj a tradition similar to Raksha Bandhan.