Deepawali is one of the most important festivals in India and it is enjoyed with great pomp and show in all parts of the country, especially Northern India. The term “Deepawali” has its origin in Sanskrit and it means “rows of lights.” Although the festival holds its origins in Hindu mythology, celebrating Lord Ram’s return to his kingdom in Ayodhya after 14 years of exile, it is celebrated with gusto by people of all castes, creed and religion.
There are a host of customs and traditions associated with Deepawali, the most popular among them being the exchange of gifts between friends and family members. It is not uncommon to see malls and shops spilling over with people choosing clothes, sweets, jewelery, and gold, silver and crystal decorative items as gifts for their loved ones.
On a corporate level, gifts take on the role of the brand ambassador of the company’s image. Planning for corporate gifting begins months in advance and while regular customers are handed a box of chocolates or dry fruit as a gestural token, the more exclusive clients receive exorbitantly priced gifts, such as foreign wines, high end crystal ware, home appliances, and LCD televisions. All in the hope that the prosperity and flow of wealth continue into the next year as well!
For the average worker, Deepawali is also the time when the annual bonuses of the company are announced and employees go home with a big, fat paycheck. Of course, the amount dissipates as quickly as it arrives since there is a whole lot of shopping that needs to be done. The host of sales and offers announced by shops and malls are too tempting to be ignored and this is the best time of the year to buy that new laptop or refrigerator or two-wheeler. Besides, the calls on your purse don’t end there. You, too, need to give out the yearly bonus to the maid working in your house, the electrician, postman, the guy who washes and irons your clothes, your cook…..the list is endless and you are lucky if you have any money left over for yourself.
This is also the time when the average family begins the annual painting and whitewashing of his house. It is believed that Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity, will not enter into a filthy house. Those who cannot afford to paint their house compensate by scrubbing it clean from top to toe and making colorful and intricate designs with flowers and colored rice powder in front of their house to entice the Goddess to step in.
In the evening, the house is lit up with dozens of “diyas” or earthen lamps, candles, and fairy lights. Firecrackers and sparklers begin exploding in front of every house, intermingled by the sounds of laughter, gaiety and childish giggles. Bathed in the warm golden glow of countless diyas, you can’t help but think that your house is just the place any god or goddess would be most happy to be in.