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DIWALI 

The Festival Of Lights

A comprehensive look at Diwali - traditions, customs and recipes 

Click on the diyas for a Diwali Greeting. Step 1. Do you want to Run or Save this file. (You can choose either) Step 2.  If you choose Run. You will get a Security warning - Unknown Publisher. Click on "Run" The Diwali Greeting will start. You can swap lantern designs, add more diyas and more lanterns and also shrink or enlarge the items. Enjoy ! 

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Diwali or Deepawali means an array or row of lamps.  Of all the festivals celebrated in India, Diwali is by far the most glamorous and important festival in India.  It is celebrated 20 days after Dussehra, on the 13th day of the dark fortnight of the month of Ashwin (October / November).

What is Diwali?

  1. It is a festival of lights symbolizing the victory of good over evil - and the glory of light. 
  2. This festival commemorates Lord Rama's return to his kingdom Ayodhya after completing his 14-year exile, triumphant in the war against Ravana.   Rama, Sita and Lakshmana returned on this day and Rama was crowned as the King of Ayodhya.
  3. Diwali is also considered to be the festival of the Goddess wealth and prosperity Laxmi - Goddess Laxmi visits all homes to bless the people and so to welcome the goddess homes are cleaned & decorated.

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5 Days of Diwali 

 

  1. Dhantrayodashi
  2. Naraka Chaturdashi
  3. Lakashmi Pujan 
  4. Bali Pratipada / Padva / Govardahn Puja
  5. Bhaubij
        

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DHANTRYAODASHI 

The first day of Diwali is called Dhanteras. The word 'Dhanteras' -'dhan' wealth and 'teras' the 13th day on which wealth in the form of coins is worshipped.  Before Dhantrayodashi people clean their houses from top to bottom and make beautiful designs on the ground called "rangoli". 

The women prepare holiday sweets and savory foods. Believing this day to be auspicious women purchase some gold or silver or at least one or two new utensils. The houses are usually cleaned, washed and maybe even painted. On this day, the children are taken out to buy crackers.

Lakshmi puja is performed in the evening. Goddess Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, is said to visit everyone during all the days of Diwali.  "Bhajans"-devotional songs- in praise of Goddess Laxmi are sung and "Naivedya" of traditional sweets is offered to the Goddess. There is a custom in Maharashtra to lightly pound dry whole coriander seeds with jaggery and offer as Naivedya.

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NARKA CHATURDASHI

Choti Diwali or Chaturdashi. It is the fourteenth lunar day (thithi) of the dark fortnight of the month of Kartik and the eve of Diwali. On this day Lord Krishna destroyed the demon Narakasur and made the world free from fear. On this day it is traditional to wake up early and perform the bathing ritual. A paste of gram flour, turmeric, uthana, oil and almond paste is rubbed on to the weary arms, legs and body of the women 

The Story

Narakasur was a wicked king. His ambition was that no one should ever defeat him. So he turned his capital into a fortress. When Krishna heard about the wicked deeds of Narakasur he decided to destroy him. But Satyabhama, Krishna's wife, took this task upon herself. Krishna would only be her helper. In the early hours of the 14th day of the dark half of Ashvin, Satyabhama killed Narakasur and liberated the women from his prison. They went home and expressed their joy by lighting lamps.  On this occasion we are reminded of the struggle between good and evil.

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LAKSHMI PUJAN

The new moon night, "amavasya", of Ashvin, is a big celebration, known as Laxmi Pujan. On this day Goddess Lakshmi emerged from the ocean of milk called the Ksheer Sagar. She brought with her,  wealth and prosperity for mankind.

The New Year is ushered in with a special pooja dedicated to Lakshmi. The new business year begins for north Indians. One of the most curious customs which characterizes this festival of Diwali is the indulgence of gambling, specially on a large scale in North India. It is believed that goddess Parvati played dice with her husband, Lord Shiva on this day and she decreed that whosoever gambled on Diwali night would prosper throughout the ensuring year. This tradition of playing cards- flush and rummy with stakes on this particular day continues even to-day.

Shopkeepers and merchants worship their account books and their merchandise, during a ceremony known as 'Chopda Poojan', worship of the books. Lakshmi is revered for she can bring prosperity in the new year.   People light firecrackers. On the dark new moon night, the entrances to all homes are lit up and decorated with rangoli patterns to welcome Lakshmi, the radiant consort of Vishnu and the goddess of wealth and lustre. This is also a time when the new business year begins it is said that Diwali is the "Time to shop or start new ventures".

The story 

King Bali had taken Laxmi as a slave. Vishnu, in his fifth avatar as Vaman, defeated Bali and liberated Laxmi. On this day the liberation of Laxmi is celebrated by worshipping Laxmi. On this day goddess Lakshmi emerged from the ocean of milk called the Ksheer Sagar. She brought with her wealth and prosperity for mankind.

On that day, Lakshmi Pooja was performed to honor her and worship her. The making and distribution of various sweets and total vegetarian foods are the order of the day. This practice is alive and well to this very day.

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BALI PRATIPADA

The first day of the month Kartik is a full "muhurta", or auspicious day. This is New Year's Day for merchants.

The Story 

The legend related to this day is about the King Bali of the nether world that mighty power had become a threat to the gods. In order to curb his powers Lord Vishnu in the guise of a small boy visited him and begged him to give him only that much land which he could cover with his three steps. Known for his philanthropy King Bali proudly granted him his wish. So with his first step Lord Vishnu covered the entire heaven and with the second step the earth and asked Bali where to keep his third step. Bali offered his head and putting his foot on his head Vishnu pushed him down to the underworld. But for his generosity Lord Vishnu allowed him to return to earth once a year to light millions of lamps to dispel the darkness and ignorance and spread the radiance of love and wisdom. 

Lord Vishnu was satisfied promised him that on the first Pratipada of Kartik people would remember him. So on this day some people take the name of Bali, they worship his picture together with that of his wife, Vindhyavati, and waving the lamp before the picture or idol they sing, "Ida Pida javo, Balitse rajya yevo." ("Let suffering go and let Bali's kingdom come.")

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PADWA

The Fourth day is also called Padwa. Men present gifts to their wives on this day.

GOVARRDHAN PUJA 

Govardhan-Puja is performed in the North on this day. As per Vishnu-Puran, the people of Gokul used to celebrate a festival in honor of Lord Indra and worshipped him after the end of every monsoon season. But one particular year the young Krishna stopped them from offering prayers to Lord Indra who in terrific anger sent a deluge to submerge Gokul. But Krishna saved his Gokul by lifting up the Govardhan Mountain and holding it over the people as an umbrella. For Annakoot a mountain of food is decorated symbolizing Govardhan Mountain lifted by Lord Krishna.

ANNAKOOT

This day is also observed as Annakoot meaning mountain of food. Pious people keep awake the whole night and cook fifty-six or 108 different types of food for the bhog (the offering of food) to Krishna. In temples specially in Mathura and Nathadwara, the deities are given a milk bath, dressed in shining attires with ornaments of dazzling diamonds, pearls, rubies and other precious stones. After the prayers and traditional worship innumerable varieties of delicious sweets are ceremoniously raised in the form of a mountain before the deities as "Bhog" and then the devotees approach the Mountain of Food and take Prasad from it.

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BHAUBIJ

This day is a special day for brothers. Sisters usually do the puja, before the brothers leave for  their places of study or work. The "aarti" is performed by waving the lamp in front of their brothers and then applying the "tilak". She also offers a plate of 5 fruits to hi. Usually the fruits are a coconut, apples, bananas, pears, and oranges. Brothers usually offer generous gifts or money to their sisters. This ceremony also takes place between cousins.  

The story 

Many years  ago, in the Vedic era, Yama (Yamraj, the Lord of death) visited his sister Yamuna (Yami)   and she put the auspicious tilak on his forehead, they ate talked and enjoyed together and exchanged special gifts as a token of their love for each other and Yamraj announced that anyone who receives tilak from his sister on this day will never be taken away.

Since then it became a tradition for the brother to go to his sister's house to celebrate Bhaiyaduj or Bhaubieej. 

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TRADITIONAL DIWALI FARAL (DIWALI FOODS)

With the traditional Puja which is performed after sunset in all the homes five pieces of ghee diyas (lamps) are lit in front of the deities, Naivedya or offering of traditional sweets is offered to the Gods.

Foods made during this festival (not all links active) 

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HOW IS DIWALI CELEBRATED

Diwali is a time of holiday feasting and family visits, Hindus spend the day visiting friends and family and exchanging gifts and sweets. This festival resembles Christmas here in the US.  Children definitely expect gifts at this time. 

Stores, shops and open markets are gaily decorated and lit up. Everybody adorns new and bright clothes, especially the women who wear their  best jewelry. The preparations for Diwali begin well in advance. They start cleaning and decorating their homes. They prepare what is called as Diwali Faral or the traditional Indian sweets and savory snacks. Like Chivda, Kanola, Chakli, Mathia. Nowadays many of these traditional items are founf in the gourmet grocery stores in India.

People also decorate the front entrance of their houses with colorful Rangoli designs. Rangoli is the art of drawing images and motifs using different color powders. The patterns are made with fingers using rice powder, crushed lime stone, or colored chalk. They may be topped with grains, pulses, beads, or flowers. Since the entire objective of making rangoli in diwali is to welcome Goddess Laxmi, small footprints coming into the home, representing the footprints of the Goddess. Rangolis can be of any size, from the size of a doormat, to the covering an entire room. 

One important point is that the entire pattern must be an unbroken line, with no gaps to be left anywhere, for evil spirits are believed to enter through such gaps, if they find one. In an expert hand, the images created are elaborate and look as if they are painted. 

They also light up their homes with colorful lights. The most common lights used are the string of outdoor lights - especially the bigger bulb - string of lights. They place these on their balconies as most of the people live in tall apartment complexes called - flats. You will also see Diwali Kandils in the balconies. 

Diwali is a time to buy new clothes & also purchase gorgeous gold and silver jewelry. 

In the small villages cattle are worshipped by farmers as they form the main source of their income. In the south of India cows are offered special Diwali sweets as they are regarded as the incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi and therefore they are adorned and worshipped on this day.

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TWINKLING LIGHTS 

On Diwali day, everywhere in India, at dusk when darkness unfolds itself, you can see a spectacular illumination of tiny flickering lamps, colorful light sets - like the lights we see here in the US and Diwali lanterns adorning homes, balconies, offices and streets.  

DIWALI DIYAS The traditional Diwali Diyas or lamps are made of clay. People add oil and a wick and light a whole row of lights. The clay lamps are now painted brightly with and filled with wax. This makes  more convenient to use than the conventional oil ones. Brass and aluminum diyas are also quite popular. 

Another very popular Diwali decoration is the Kandil or Diwali paper lantern. Traditionally it is made of colorful tissue paper and placed over a hanging lamp bulb. You see them mostly 

DIWALI KANDIL  Many houses buy ready made paper lanterns or kandils and place them over the light in their balcony. They are shaped like a star or like the traditional paper lantern. 

How to make a Diwali Kandil for today's home ! 

  • Small jam / jelly glass jar  
  • Sheets of colored tissue paper   
  • Shiny paper/foil/sequins  
  • Glue/double-sided sticky tape  
  • Scissors    
  • Tea lights     
  1. Cut a strip of colored tissue paper that is long enough to wrap around the jam jar.    
  2. Decorate your tissue paper by using shiny paper/foil and sequins! For the best looking effect, use just small pieces of paper or foil. This way all the colors will be lit up by the light from the tea light!   
  3. Now wrap your tissue paper around the jam jar using glue or sticky tape.  
  4. Finally, put the tea light in the bottom of the jam jar and light the wick carefully. Make sure that none of the tissue or card is on the inside of the jam jar! 

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RANGOLI

Rangoli is the art of drawing images and motifs using different color powders. The patterns are made with fingers using rice powder, crushed lime stone, or colored chalk by free form art. They may be topped with grains, pulses, beads, or flowers. 

Welcoming Goddess Lakshmi : Since the entire objective of making a rangoli in diwali is to welcome Goddess Laxmi, small footprints coming into the home, representing the footprints of the Goddess are made in front of the entrance of the house. Rangolis can be of any size, from the size of a doormat, to the covering an entire room. 

One important point is that the entire pattern must be an unbroken line, with no gaps to be left anywhere, for evil spirits are believed to enter through such gaps, if they find one. In an expert hand, the images created are elaborate and look as if they are painted. 

    

Many of the designs are geometric and proportioned. The common rangoli themes are the celestial symbols such as the rising sun, moon, stars, zodiac signs, holy symbols like Om, kalash, swastika, chakra, a lighted Deepak, trident, "shree", lotus etc. Goddess Lakshmi in the lotus symbolizes the figure of renewed life. Other popular themes are images like flowers, creepers, trees, fish, birds, elephants, dancing figures, human figures and geometrical figures such as circles, semi-circles, triangles, squares and rectangles. Animals like the holy cow, horses and the birds like eagles and swans are also very popular.

It has been a tradition to draw Rangoli on the festivals and other auspicious occasions as it is considered a holy ritual. But there is a unique relationship between the festival of Diwali and drawing rangoli. 

As a Rangoli is created by sprinkling powder by hand it is a very laborious and difficult process, but all pains are taken to create a perfect Rangoli. Why? Because this art reflects the Indian culture and upholds the age old values of hospitality. This perfection in art brings a brings a sense of completion in the joyous celebrations of Diwali. 

Nowadays there are plastic moulds available with holes for the design. One can fill the plastic moulds with the rangoli and stamp away. Its that easy ! 

The many names of Rangoli

Kerala : 'Puvidal' ( Puv means flower and idal means arrangement, i.e. Rangoli by flowers.
Tamil Nadu : 'Kolam' ( kolam - name of a specific quality of rice. Rangoli is drawn by using rice flour )
Andhra Pradesh : 'Muggu' ( Rangoli drawn by using thick batter of soaked rice flour )
Karnataka : 'Rangoli' ( From the powder of a special kind of a rock. Tiny dots are drawn on the floor usually in even numbers. These dots are joined with the powder in a geometrical fashion )
Maharashtra : 'Rangvalli' ( Rangoli thick powder made from special rock is used in various colors, and the powder of burnt rice skin is used to draw rangoli in Konkan part of Maharashtra )
Gujarat : 'Sathiya' ( Rangoli is known by this name )
Rajasthan : 'Mandana' ( rice flour mixed with little turmeric. It is drawn on the walls )
Madhya Pradesh : 'ChowkPurna' ( Traditional designs fitted in square with leaves and flowers )
Uttar Pradesh : It is known as 'Sona Rakhana'
Orissa : It is known as 'Ossa' 
Bengal : In Bengal it is drawn by soak rice paste and known as 'Apana'

For more Rangoli designs go here

FIREWORKS INDIAN STYLE

Phoolzhadi, Anars, Zameen Chakra and Phatake are all Indian words for different kinds of Fireworks ! 

Phoolzhadi is a hindi word for sparkler. Sparklers are a really great way to enjoy the Diwali season. You can buy sparklers almost any where in the US. This is one of the safer ways for the little ones to get involved, of course with adult supervision.

In India many neighborhoods get together to pool their recourses to buy a large amount of fireworks. Lakshmi pujan day is one of the biggest for the loudest and longest fireworks called - "lud-dees". The length of the firecracker depends upon the cost of the
"lud-dee". Lud-dees can range from a few hundred rupees to thousands of rupees. People throng to the areas where they know the people burn the longest lud-dees. Although the sounds can be "cacophonic" but it is fabulous to see and hear the sounds of the firecrackers along with the enthusiastic yelps of the crowds. Its like the 4th of July. The older kids are thrilled and the younger ones shove their little stubby fingers into their ears to quiet the sound but everyone loves the "Dhoom Dhamaka" 

Below click to see how fire works are lit on the streets of India ! The kids are thrilled and the younger ones shove their little stubby fingers into their ears to quiet the sound but everyone love the "Dhoom Dhamaka"

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TORANS OR DOOR HANGINGS


Torans or  Door Hangings are the most important of all Diwali decorative items. These are used to adorn the main entrance door and that of the worship room to welcome Goddess Lakshmi. Diwali Torans come in various styles and designs,. They can be made of cloth, plastic flowers and all are handcrafted and come embellished with embroidery, bells, beads, mirror, shells. 

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DIWALI DESKTOP GREETING

This is brought especially for you this Diwali season. This is an executable. It is pretty cool, as once you have downloaded it you will have one Diwali Kandil and Diwali lamp. Then you can add more lamps and lanterns and change their sizes too ! Its a great desktop reminder for Diwali. We are so glued to the computer nowadays that this is great way to feel connected with the Diwali festival. 

 

  1. Click on the Diwali Diya 

  2. You will get a message saying

  3. "You are downloading the file: diwali.exe from cuisinecuisine.com Would you like to open the file or save it to your computer? " 

  4. Click on "OPEN" 

  5. Then the file will download and you will be able to enjoy the beautiful Diwali Greeting ! ENJOY !

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Indians are the second largest ethnic minority in Britain. The British city of Leicester is noted for its Diwali Festival celebrations. Diwali in UK has become more widespread and known. 

The occasion of Diwali is marked by visit to the local temple to worship the shrine of goddess Lakshmi. The festival here is celebrated according to the Hindu solar calendar, in one of the cold, damp and windy months in Britain. But still the enthusiasm of the festival celebration makes the task of leaving small lamps on windowsills or by open doorways possible ignoring the chill. The Lamps and Diyas play their part in maintaining the atmosphere of Diwali in the home.

South Africa

South Africa is located at the southern tip of the continent of Africa. The South African culture is a mix of variety of cultures. It had the largest immigrant Indian community in the world a decade prior to the colonization by the United States of America. The immigrant Indians account of almost one million in the country. But most of them are concentrated in the eastern regions of Natal and Transvaal of the country.

About 65% are Hindus, 15% Muslims and 20% of Christians live in this area. Due to the majority of the Hindu population, a number of Hindu festivals are celebrated here. The Festival of Diwali holds an important place in the festival calendar of the region. The Diwali celebrations are more or less same to that of India. Most of the Hindus here are from Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu and continue to follow their regional variations of Hinduism.

Australia

Australia the wonderful island country on Indian Ocean has an estimated 100000 Indians as settled in Australia. Most of them are the follower of the Hindu religion. Though, some of the Indians here are recent arrivals that belong to the affluent sections of the Indian society. Due to the large number of Hindu here, Diwali is one of the major festivals that is celebrated with great enthusiasm. The lightening of lamps and diyas on Diwali is a common practice. However, the non-availability of the appropriate material of or some other reason have influenced the celebrations and has given in the touch of modernity in the celebration of the festival of light.

 

 




 

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