Deepavali is celebrated in all states in India except for Kerala.  It is a festival that is celebrated by people of many religions.  It has components of tradition and prayer as well as fun and food.  The main day of Deepavali starts before dawn and even the evening before with the bursting of firecrackers that can be heard everywhere.  People compete with their neighbors to have the best and loudest fireworks.  People are woken up by the sound of a nagaswaram (or nadaswaram), an important loud double reed wind instrument in Tamil Nadu like an oboe that is played at important events and in temples, and drum played by musicians walking through the streets as a harbinger of good luck.

 

The day starts at 4:00 am in every house when people have a luxurious oil bath to sooth and condition their skin.  This is followed by a Lakshmi pooja where an offering of gold, silver and fruit is made.  Oil diyas (traditional lamps made from clay or brass with cotton wicks) are lit and decorate the family’s pooja room (a room dedicated to meditation and prayer).  The elders bless the whole family for a bright future.
 

The women wear mostly Kanchipuram silk sarees and men wear gold laced dhotis (a traditional garment that is a long rectangular piece of cloth tha tis wrapped and tied around the waist) and new shirts. After the pooja, people set off their firecrackers.  This continues all day but with less intensity as the day goes on.  Delicious steaming hot Pooris are made for breakfast in most homes.
 

Brass oil lamps

Oil lamps made from brass.


Most families follow the ritual of visiting the temples and their relatives.  Giving gifts of food is an important part of the tradition. Newly married couples also visit their parents and in-laws houses to receive their blessings as part of this tradition. Women, dressed in their beautiful sarees, bring a tray loaded with a variety of delicious homemade sweets and savories when they visit their friends.  The treats include milk sweets like Burfi, Peda, Mysore Paak, Jalebi, and Laddu, and snacks like Murukku, Cheeda and Madras Mixture.

 

In the evening rows of oil lamps are arranged around the front porch of every house and lit. The purpose of the lamps is to guide the Goddess Lakshmi in finding her way into people’s homes.  In addition, it symbolizes knowledge over ignorance, light over darkness and goodness over evil. It is an amazing sight to see house after house lit with these twinkling lights which truly represents the meaning of Deepavali (row of lights) and makes a nice end to a beautiful festival.
 

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