Divali, the Festival of Lights which is also known as Deepavali, is a Hindu festival that is celebrated between mid-October and mid-November.
Divali is dedicated to the victory of light over darkness and the date is based on the Hindu calendar, a luni-sidereal calendar. Under the Hindu calendar, the festival is celebrated in the month of Kartik on the night of the New Moon.
Divali has been celebrated since ancient times, originating as a harvest festival. Divali is loosely translated from Sanskrit as “a row of lights.” It is one of the most joyous celebrations in Mauritius and is actually a five-day celebration, although only one day is considered a public holiday.
Celebrating Divali is synonymous with siding with light forces rather than dark or choosing good over evil. It is said that the celebration is dedicated to the goddess Luckshmi, the wife of the god Vishnu. Luckshmi accompanies Vishnu when he returns to Earth and takes the form of a human to help her husband fight against evil.
When Rama was in the seventh incarnation of Vishnu, his wife took the appearance of Sita. Rama, the son of King Ayodhya, was the victim of evil deeds by people close to him. He was forced from the palace where he and his wife, Sita, roamed the jungle. A demon kidnapped Sita leading Rama to ask for help from Hanuman. The demon was killed and Sita rescued. When they returned to the kingdom, the people illuminated the town with thousands of oil lamps to welcome them home.
Celebrations and Traditions
Lights are the most prevalent decorations found in Mauritius in celebration of Divali. Thousands of lights decorate buildings, temples and homes. People begin preparing for the festival far in advance, cleaning and decorating. It is customary to purchase new clothing and gifts for others. Clothing includes a new suit specially made for Divali for the men and new saris for the women.
Cleaning the home includes decorating the ground with colourful patterns in sacred patterns. Cakes and delicacies are carefully wrapped to be shared with friends and relatives. Sharing the cakes are a sign of harmony and love.
Diyas, oil lamps are lit as are candles and lanterns. Fireworks are discharged to chase away evil spirits. Families celebrate with festive meals and it is customary to exchange sweets such as mithai.
People crowd the streets making it almost impossible for cars to pass. Traditional songs are played and people greet each other enthusiastically. Temples are decorated lavishly and many families attend special services to celebrate Divali.