Photo Taken In Benares, India

Celebrations marking Diwali, the Indian Festival of Light, is a high-point in the socializing and entertaining calendar of the Indian diaspora spread worldwide.It is celebrated with fun, festivities and religious traditions by Indian communities living in far-flung countries.

Diwali celebrations are held with almost fervent zeal by Indian communities in lands that stretch from Guyana, on South America’s north-eastern Atlantic coast, to the Caribbean nations and island-states lying in the South Pacific and Indian Ocean; all the way to south-east Asian countries and on the African continent, as well as in most other countries where Indian communities have  long settled and over generations have come to call it their home.

Diwali is also now celebrated by the millions of migrant diaspora that have sought jobs and livelihood in countries lying in the Far-East, Middle-East, in Europe, the US and elsewhere around the world.

The five-day festival of Diwali, which has traditional, religious, social and historical connotations attached to it, differs based on the celebrants, and though it has acquired a more mercantile aspect in recent times, the spiritual relevance of Diwali remains the same and has abided over the ages. The Festival of Light continues to symbolize the universal power of light to uplift, guide, and lead people along the righteous path.

The festival epitomizes the conquest of light over darkness, of good over evil, and on a more personal level the eradication of ignorance with the light of knowledge. This eternal aspect of Diwali is what makes the festival so popular and is the reason it has prevailed for nearly three millennia on the Indian subcontinent and wherever Indians have made their home.

While in India Diwali is an unfettered celebration of the joy of life and marked by a profusion of riotous colors, aromas and sounds emanating from every quarter, it tends to be observed in a more subdued manner in countries populated by Indian communities, and in places where Indian expatriates live and work. No matter how it is commemorated, there is no denying the spirit of joie de vivre that the Festival of Lights spreads in the hearts and minds of Indians everywhere.

Generations of Indians abroad have marked Diwali with festive and religious traditions, and shared the joy of the festival with the exchange of sweets and gifts among relatives, friends and colleagues. For the expatriate Indian community, Diwali is also a celebration that reflects their longing to share the occasion with their near and dear ones back home. For people of Indian origin who have settled in various countries abroad, Diwali is often a way to keep in touch with their roots, and to join friends, kith and kin in a celebration of the rich culture and heritage of India.

However, in recent times, there has been a gradual but noticeable erosion of interest in Diwali as well as other traditional festivals among many young Indians overseas, engaged as they are in their own busy daily schedules. Many do not seem to share the sentiments of their parents’ generation and appear to have no time for the rituals and rites associated with the festival.

Most young adolescent expats who probably were born and raised in a foreign environment, and have only made an occasional brief foray back home to India during holiday breaks, have no resonance with the cultures and traditions of a country that many find and consider alien. Many of these youngsters have only a  fuzzy idea of the culture and heritage of India, and often have difficulty in balancing the culture of their forebears with prevailing norms in the urban culture they grew up in, and in the foreign land that many have come to consider their true home.

If nothing else, the global pandemic and its repercussions during the past two years have driven home the fleeting nature of our lives and livelihoods, and how dependent we are on communities and social interactions. The importance of our roots and our connections have never been more poignantly driven home than during the height of the medical crisis, when there were reports of parochial sentiments on the part of citizens being brought to the fore in terms of delivery of healthcare and other essentials. Back then, knowing and acknowledging that we have a country and people to fall back on in the worst case scenario, was often the only bright spot in a situation that grew increasingly bleak during the early months.

Importance of the land of our ancestors which always remains open and welcome to us, should give us enough reason to grow familiar with its cultures and traditions if not for anything else then at least not to appear alien to the people back home. The Festival of Light this year could be the right time and opportunity to revive and give a restart to relations with our native land and its culture.

The festival presents us with an occasion to familiarize and immerse ourselves in the beauty and grandeur of Indian culture and heritage. It also provides us with a chance to experience the tantalizing tastes of traditional dishes and delicacies prepared during the festival period. But, most importantly, it delivers us with a golden opportunity to imbue the sense of community and friendship that is fundamental aspect of our Indian values.

So this Diwali, even if you do not like to consider yourself an ‘Indian’, go light up your house, don bright clothes, the brighter the better, and go have fun with other Indians and other expatriates, while remembering to take along a gift of Diwali delicacies to share with them.

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