On November 12th, 2023 Diwali, the Festival of Lights was celebrated in South Asian cultures worldwide. We took this opportunity to learn more about the significance of Diwali from the perspective of four Encepta employees who celebrate the festival.
At Encepta, we value diversity and are proud to be an equal opportunity employer. We celebrate a diverse workforce and are committed to creating an inclusive environment for all employees. Special thank you to Chanel Naicker, Project Lead; Kiranjot Kaur, Project Lead; Pawan Singh, Project Designer; and Shruthi Ramesh, Project Lead, who answered some questions to help us dive deeper into the following cultural insights.
Can you explain what Diwali is?
Chanel: Diwali is the celebration of light. It’s celebrated in a lot of South Asian cultures and in different ways, but the overarching theme is enlightenment and the “Light” prevailing. In the aspect of “good triumphing over evil, knowledge over ignorance” as my grandma taught me.
Kiranjot: Diwali - also known as the festival of lights is the most important festival of the year in India. Observed by more than billions of people across faiths, this five-day festival of light brings prayer, feasts, fireworks and for some, a new beginning.
In a multicultural and diverse country like India, everyone has their own way of celebrating this festival. Hindus celebrate as on this day Lord Rama, returned to his kingdom in Ayodhya after a period of 14 years in exile with his wife Sita and brother Lakshmana after defeating the king Ravana. Whereas, in Southern India, Diwali celebrates the victory of Lord Krishna’s destruction of the demon Naraka who is said to have imprisoned women and tormented his subjects. The Jains observe their own Diwali which marks the final liberation of Mahavira. While the Sikhs celebrate it as “Bandi Chhor Divas” to mark the release of Guru Hargobind from a Mughal prison.
Pawan: Diwali stands as one of India’s most significant and widely celebrated festivals, with its influence extending across the globe. During this festive season, people kindle oil lamps, candles, and vibrant decorative lights to illuminate their homes, streets, and more, symbolizing the triumph of knowledge and wisdom over ignorance. The festival carries deep religious significance and is intertwined with various mythological tales. Among the most revered stories is the return of Lord Rama, the seventh avatar of Lord Vishnu, to his kingdom after vanquishing the tyrannical king, Ravana.
Shruthi: Diwali is the festival of lights and generally symbolizes the victory of light over darkness. This is one of the auspicious festivals of Hindus, when people light diyas (traditional oil lamps) and distribute gifts amongst family and friends. Lighting lamps represent goodness, purity and good luck.
What does Diwali mean to you?
Chanel: I come from a Hindu Household so we celebrate by making sure the house is VERY clean, then gather together to say a prayer, and eat a lot of good food and Indian sweets, followed by fireworks, family chats and music.
Kiranjot: The festival holds a great significance in my life. Typically the celebration starts a month prior in my house with deep cleaning of the house, renovating and decorating it by stringing up lights and lanterns all over the house which is fun and exhausting at the same time. This would also mark a major shopping day where my parents would buy new utensils, home equipment, gold jewelry on the first day of Diwali - known as Dhanteras as it is believed to be good luck. Every year, my whole family would come together at my grandparents house to celebrate this day. This is like an annual homecoming and bonding period for families. The day would start with us seeking blessings from our elders, we would wear new clothes and make Rangoli (geometric floral patterns) outside our house.
Pawan: Diwali holds special importance for Sikhism, often referred to as “Bandi Chhor Divas”. Although it coincides with Hindu Diwali celebrations, Sikhs observe it for a different reason. This day commemorates the release of Guru Hargobind Ji from imprisonment in Gwalior Fort. He had been unjustly imprisoned by the Mughal Emperor Jahangir for several years, and his release coincided with Diwali. Beyond its religious aspects, this occasion holds significance in the realm of human rights. Upon his release, Guru Hargobind Ji not only secured his own freedom but also advocated for the release of 52 other Hindu kings who were unjustly incarcerated. This act of compassion and concern for the rights and well-being of others reflects a commitment to the principles of human rights and social justice.
Shruthi: The main celebration of Diwali takes place on the day of the New Moon when the sky is at its darkest, so a big part of the celebration revolves around light. Fireworks are also set off on the night of Diwali - said by some to ward off evil spirits.
What is your favourite memory of Diwali?
Chanel: I love celebrating Diwali with my family and spending quality time with all of them. One of my favourite memories from last year’s Diwali is when my mom blessed my dogs.
Kiranjot: My most favourite part of the day is marking “mithai” (sweets) at home. Additionally, my family has a tradition to fry fritters in the evening and make sweet rice which is used as an offering to God while doing our prayers at home, then, we would go to Gurudwara Sahib (holy place for Sikhs), to light candles and seek blessings. Once we return home, the fun begins where we burst crackers and fireworks. Also, all the nearby houses would greet each other and exchange sweets. I await for this day every year as the excitement to decorate houses and make rangoli brings my community a lot of joy.
Pawan: As a child, my favourite part of Diwali was the festival, as it brought me joy when I received sweets and candies from friends and family. Back in India, stores offered significant discounts, similar to Black Friday, and we would often purchase large electronics like fridges and tvs. This was always super exciting! At night, we would purchase an assortment of fireworks and light them up. The entire neighbourhood would come together, lighting the sky with vibrant colours and lights. One of my favourite parts of Diwali as a child, was waking up the next morning as children and scouring the streets collecting unlit firecrackers to celebrate another mini Diwali in the evening.
Shruthi: My family is very fond of Diwali, we get new clothes every year to celebrate! We make sweets and savory snacks at home which is a lot of fun as everyone in the family sits together to help the process. We then exchange these goodies with our neighbours, friends and family and burst crackers. I also enjoy going to watch new movies released during Diwali. It's a part of our celebration to watch a new film in the theatre with vibrant crowds!
Stay tuned for more Encepta cultural insights in future blog posts!
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