Unique Diwali Traditions Across India

Do you know how the people of Orissa bring in Diwali? Or how the festival of lights is observed in a Maharashtrian village? We give you a peek into the ways in which the festive season is welcomed

By Shashwathi Sandeep

Unique Diwali Traditions Across India

The light of Diwali brings love and radiance into our homes, and it signifies positivity and sharing with friends and family. In different parts of India, each region has its own unique tradition and every tradition has its own significance. In Orissa, people pay homage to their ancestors, while in some parts of Southern India, harikathas (musical narrations dedicated to God) are recited. ParentCircle spoke to our readers about Diwali traditions, and here is what they have said about celebrations around the country.               

In the Andheri area of Mumbai, Lokhandwala is a shopper’s paradise. There is a whole range of stores selling a variety of items from sweets to imported products to clothes and pretty much anything under the sun. The store owners have formed an association and every year they pool in money just for the Diwali celebrations. Lights are strung from the tops of buildings for a stretch of about two and a half km, starting at the entrance of Lokhandwala. You look up, and you see lights all the way!

The association also organises an all-night shopping fest. Stores are open continuously for five days, both day and night. Women have started a tradition of drawing rangoli only at night. After dinner, they go shopping together for colours and stay up all night making rangoli. The place also gets very colourful with Mehendiwaalis who are busy drawing intricate designs on the hands of patrons. A very festive atmosphere, buzzing with people all night.

- Nandita Mahadevia, PR professional from Mumbai

Diwali is celebrated in a grand manner in my hometown of Jamshedpur. Midnight prayers are held at various temples and organisations throughout the city. There are pandals everywhere and the entire city is lit up.

The market is bedecked for the occasion and everything, from colours to fruits to sweets, is up for grabs. Businessmen here follow a unique tradition. They leave their shops and treasure vaults open all through the night since they believe that this is the time Goddess Lakshmi enters their houses and shops.

Since there is so much demand for khoya to make sweets, you will find khoya made from camel’s milk and even synthetic khoya on a trip to the black market.

- Bijay Singh, Media professional from Jamshedpur

In Goa, we have a competition to make the best Narakasur. People start building the Narakasur 20 days to a month in advance. They use their creativity to come up with unique ideas to construct the Narkasur. A lot of effort goes into making these huge idols. Special attention is given to the locomotion of these idols – to make them walk or even to fly! All the judges have an arts background and the winners are awarded a cash prize. People from all over Goa participate in this event, which is held near the Panjim Church, a day before Diwali. On the day of Diwali, the Narkasur effigies are burnt.

- Bento Rodrigues, Decorator from Goa

In my hometown of Meerut, Diwali is celebrated with great grandeur. The streets of the city sparkle with lit-up lamps and light decorations. In the famous Abu Lane, a Diwali mela filled with revelry and cultural activities takes place. Artists from all over the country come and participate in these celebrations. There are folk dances, puppet shows, and recreational activities for kids. Definitely, a sight to behold!

- Latika Wadhwa, Founder, MaStyle Care, an NGO based out of Delhi

In Orissa, we invoke the blessings of our ancestors during Diwali and perform a ritual called the kaunria. A sweet cake is made out of rice and coconut, which we first offer to our forefathers.

A bamboo pole is erected in front of the house. A handi is tied to this pole and a diya is placed inside it. The diya is lit at the beginning of the ritual. Soon after dusk, all the members of the house gather for lighting the kaunria. Everyone holds a bunch of these lit sticks and raises them towards the sky, chanting ‘Badbadua ho and Haara re aasa aalua re jaa’ meaning ‘O forefathers come in the dark of the evening, we light your way to the heaven!

A few days after Diwali, we make a sailboat out of the banana stem and fill it with fruits and spices such as mustard and pepper. We then leave it in the water. This is the day we believe, Vishnu managed to retrieve the Vedas that Narakasura stole from Brahma.

- Niva Mohanty, Student from Chennai

Purushwadi is a small village 220 km from Mumbai. Come Diwali, the local children light a special homemade lamp made of twigs and sticks and go from house to house, singing local songs. The villagers welcome the kids and in return give them oil, rice and pulses. This oil is partly used to keep the lamp burning and the rest is reserved. This happens 5 days before Diwali. On the big day of Diwali, all the kids come together to cook up delicious khichdi. And for this, they use the reserve oil, rice, grains and other ingredients. Now, that’s a treat.

The entire village is enveloped in darkness, but one can see the flickering flames of diyas outside every house. The darkness is not by choice; it is a result of the erratic power supply to the village. However, it is one of the most serene ways of celebrating Diwali.

- Naomi Dias, Business Development Manager, Grassroutes