The annual Diwali Dinner is a celebration of the Hindu religious holiday and vibrant culture of India. We host a delicious dinner, dance performances, informational presentations, raffles and even Mehndi (henna tattoos)! Diwali marks one of the biggest celebrations in India and is also known as "the festival of lights." The exact dates on which Diwali is celebrated each year vary due to fluctuations in the traditional solar and lunar calendars based on planetary movements.
The legends behind the festival are as varied as the manner of its celebration, but common to all of them is the theme of the triumph of good over evil. One such legend, the most popular one, is about the demon named Narkasura who managed to acquire such awesome powers that he began to terrorize the three worlds; his defeat and death at the hands of Krishna is celebrated as Diwali, and the day preceding the new moon in the months of Ashwija-Kartik in the Hindu calendar is known as Naraka Chaturdasi.
For the people in north India, the festival commemorates the joyous return of Rama to his kingdom of Ayodhya, after 14 years of exile in the forests. For the business community, particularly in the western regions of Gujarat and upper India, Diwali is a festival devoted to Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity. In fact, the new accounting year begins with Diwali, and the tradition is still followed by opening new accounting ledgers on this festive day.
Diwali is a corruption of the word Deepavali, the literal meaning of which in Sanskrit is ‘a row of lamps.' In most regions of the country, it is a popular tradition to fill little clay lamps with oil and wick and light them in rows all over the house. In the north, most communities observe the custom of lighting lamps. However, in the south, the custom of lighting baked earthen lamps is not so much part of this festival as it is of the Karthikai celebrations a fortnight later. The lights signify a welcome to prosperity in the form of Lakshmi and the fireworks are supposed to scare away evil spirits.
In north India, people celebrate Choti Diwali and Bari Diwali (literally, small Diwali and big Diwali) on successive days and exchange trays of sweets.
Diwali is a time for shopping, whether for gifts or for adding durable items to one's own household. The market soars-everything from saffron to silver and spices to silks. Yet, symbolic purchases are to be made as part of tradition during Diwali.
Rangoli (ran-goal-i, also known as Alpana, Kolam and by other names), is a traditional art of decorating courtyards and walls of Indian houses, places of worship and sometimes eating places as well. The powder of white stone, lime, rice flour and other cheap paste is used to draw intricate and ritual designs. Each state of India has its own way of painting Rangoli.
Mehndi is the traditional art of henna painting in India and the Middle East. In Indian mehndi, a person applies designs traditionally to a woman's hands and feet, particularly for her wedding day. To make the dye, henna (mehndi) leaves are dried and finely ground.