It All Adds Up
New Year Traditions
The Indian New Year festival is called Diwali and is a festival of lights. The festival is celebrated differently in the various districts of India.
The Hindus of the north, Diwali is the end of the old year and the start of the new. For three days in late October early November every town and village shines and glows with thousands of lights. Their homes are decorated with little oil lamps known as diwa. These little lights are found in temples, houses, along window ledges and along garden paths. In cities electrical lights are used to light up buildings. These are used to drive out evil and is replace evil with goodness.
People try to finish of any uncompleted work as Diwali marks the end of the year. Businesses pay of all debts and new account books are blessed before the New Year. It is a time for new beginnings. People buy new things such as things for their homes or new tools, or even new clothes those who can afford to.
People give cards and gifts are exchanged. They make new years resolutions and forget all quarrels for this time of year is a time to be happy and generous. Even the animals who have been worked are washed, groomed and decorated for the festival.
Diwali is also a religious festival. Hindus believed in the god Prince Rama. He lost his kingdom and his wife was stolen away by a demon named Ravana. After many battles with the demon helped by the monkey warrior Hanuman, overcame Ravana and rescued his wife. The Hindus celebrate the happy ending of this story. They recall the sadness and triumph of Rama, and of him being crowned King. Good winning over evil, light over darkness.
Lakshmi the goddess of wealth and good fortune is also honored at this time. The lit lamps show her the way to homes, so that she can bless and grant them success through the year.
In temples and shrines of people’s homes, images of the gods are decorated in flowers and fruit is placed at the feet of the statues of the gods as offerings and a prayer is said. This is known as offering puja.
In temples there are also ceremonies where the story of Rama and his wife is read a month before the New Year festival. Bhajans sacred songs are sung and dancers perform a ceremony called arti which is where a lamp is swung before the images of the gods.
Other parts of India also Punjab New Year also have a festival known as Baisakhi.
In Kerala, Southern India, mothers put food, flowers and little gifts on a special tray. On New Year's morning, the children must keep their eyes closed until they have been led to the tray.
In Gujarat lights are a sign of the beginning of a new year.
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