Diwali is one of the most important festivals and holidays in India. We Indians wait all through the year for Diwali. It is one of the most auspicious times of the year. People buy gold and other assets at this time, and there’s new clothes to be worn, lots of sweets to be had, friends and family to meet, and so much more to do. There is immense cultural and religious significance of the festival of Diwali. A lot of religious stories are associated with the festival, such as the return of Lord Ram to Ayodhya after completing 14 years in exile, the killing of the demon Narakasura by Lord Krishna, etc. There are many traditions associated with the festival too.
But, did you know India isn’t the only country that celebrates Diwali at such a grand scale with so much pomp and gaiety? There are quite a few countries around the world that celebrate Diwali just like we do. They have their own regional variations to it, but the spirit of the celebration is still the same.
Here are some of the countries that celebrate Diwali:
You might not believe me if I said it, but Fiji actually has a very large Indian population. In Fiji, Diwali is a public holiday and it celebrated on a very grand scale. People exchange gifts, there are special Diwali parties, school, colleges, and offices remain closed. So, if you are in Fiji during Diwali, chances are you might feel close to home seeing the celebrations around.
Indonesia does not have a large Indian population like Fiji does, but Diwali is a big thing there anyways. The Hindu culture and traditions have had a lot of influence in Indonesia, you’ll find quite a few temples dedicated to the Hindu Gods, and depictions of scenes from Ramayana and Mahabharata are often found in cultural representations here. Its quite a treat to witness the Diwali celebrations in Indonesia, and if you want to experience something really unique, this is the place you should be during Diwali. The celebrations are especially spectacular in Bali, where it is one of the most revered festivals of the year.
In Malaysia, Diwali is called Hari Diwali. The traditions and rituals for the festival are slightly different here. People wake up early and bathe in oil, then go on to offer prayers in the temples. Malaysia does not permit the sale of firecrackers. And then there’s the usual – exchanging sweets, gifts, and good wishes. The diyas here are filled with coconut oil, giving a very refreshing and warm fragrance. The festival is grandly celebrated in almost the entire country of Malaysia, except in Sarawak and the Federal Territory of Labuan.
Did you know that Hindus make up almost 50% of Mauritius’ population? So, its no wonder really that Diwali is a very important festival in the country. The local people of Mauritius believe that they have been celebrating Diwali since long before the occasion of the return of Lord Rama after his exile. People in Mauritius light earthen lamps in rows to create designs and images with the lamps. The people worship Goddess Lakshmi – the Goddess of wealth & prosperity during Diwali, just like we do in India. People burn firecrackers too to scare away evil spirits. Sounds all too familiar, doesn’t it?
In Nepal, the festival of Diwali is called as Tihar. People decorate their houses, exchange gifts, and pray to Goddess Lakshmi. In fact, Diwali or Tihar is the second biggest festival in Nepal after Dashain. The festivities are spread across five days, with each day having its own significance. The first day is dedicated to cows, so rice is cooked and fed to the cows, believing the cows to be an avatar of goddess Lakshmi. The second day is dedicated to dogs, which is the vahana of Lord Bhairava. Special food is cooked for the dogs and fed to them on that day. The third day is for cooking special delicacies and lighting lamps. The fourth day is dedicated to Yama – the Hindu God of death, and people pray to him seeking blessings for a long life. And the fifth day is the day of Bhaiyya Dooj, dedicated to brothers wishing a long and prosperous life for their sisters. Tihar in Nepal is quite a spectacle, something you must check out whenever you get a chance.
South Africa also has a large Indian population and celebration of Diwali is quite prominent here. Prior to colonization by the USA, South Africa had the largest immigrant Indian population in the world. Indian South Africans form the largest group in the world of people of Indian descent born outside India. Most of the Indian population is concentrated in the Natal and Transvaal areas of the country, and Diwali is celebrated with great pomp in these regions. The traditions and customs are almost the same as they are in India. Did you know in 2007 the Diwali celebrations in South Africa marked the 100th year of celebrations of the festival in the country.
Trinidad and Tobago
Trinidad is the southernmost island in the Caribbean just seven miles off the coast of Venezuela. It is one of the most colorful islands of the West Indies. It has a huge Indian population, so Indian traditions and festivals are a very important part of the local culture. About 43% of the population of the island is Indians. Diwali is one festival that unites all the people of Trinidad, not just Indians. Diwali is a national holiday in Trinidad. The festival commemorates the victory of good over evil, just like in India. The most spectacular celebrations take place at the headquarters of the National Council of Indian Culture at Diwali Nagar on the island.
They say Canada is a mini-Punjab, so Diwali celebrations are definitely bound to be a grand event in Canada. Did you know Punjabi is the third official language of the Parliament of Canada? does that give you a clue about how grand Diwali celebrations must be in Canada. I can already see Justin Trudeaux wishing Diwali to everyone! (Something he actually does.)
Well, there is a real ‘Little India’ in Singapore. Do I need to say more about Diwali celebrations frenzy in the country then? Singapore sees vivid rangolis, extensive decorations, and all the celebrations are quite a spectacular sight. If there’s one time you definitely want to be in Singapore, it is Diwali.
Well, these are just some of the countries that celebrate Diwali quite colorfully and grandly. Do you know of any such countries that celebrate Diwali that I have missed? Experienced any unique festive traditions? Write to me in the comments or find me on Instagram – @banjaranfoodie.