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October 15, 2013 > The spirit of India

The spirit of India

By Medha Raman

The spirit of India is expressed year round in festivals as diverse as the country's landscapes and as lively as its people. While several cultures around the world have fall celebrations this time of year, people of Indian origin celebrate their most important festival, Diwali. Based on the lunar calendar, Diwali falls on different dates in October or November; this year it is on November 3. Spread over five days, the third day is the most joyous one, bursting with fireworks.

The word ÒDeepavaliÓ originates from the ancient language of Sanskrit, meaning a row of earthen lamps, which symbolizes light as a remover of darkness, and knowledge as a dispeller of ignorance. ÒDiwaliÓ is the more commonly used name for Deepavali. Widespread practice of illumination with lamps outside homes and buildings, firecrackers, people dressing up in new clothes, visiting friends and exchanging sweets gives Diwali a unique flavor. The festival also brings out artistic expression through home decorations with lamp illuminations, bright paper lanterns and beautifully colored rangolis (patterns made with flour on the floor of home entrances).

Similar to festivals of various other cultures, DiwaliÕs essence lies in the triumph of good over evil and spreading joy among fellow beings. At a more subtle level, it is the awareness of oneÕs Inner light through which comes universal compassion, love, and the equality of all beings.

The mythological significance of Diwali extends to many different legends. Some honor it as the triumph of Lord Rama over the ominous demon king Ravana. It is believed that people rejoiced Lord RamaÕs return to his kingdom and lit lamps all over the city. In South India, Diwali celebrates the demise of demon king Narakasura by Lord Krishna. And in several regions of India, people pray to Lakshmi, Goddess of wealth. In the Jain religion, Diwali is known as the day on which Lord Mahavira attained Nirvana, and in Sikhism, Diwali is a joyful celebration commemorating the return of Guru Hargobind.

Dhanteras marks the first day of Diwali and depicts the tale of how the death of King Hima was averted. His young wife placed gold ornaments and coins at the entrance of her room. Yama, God of death, was blinded by the brilliance of the light. On this auspicious day, lamps (Yamadeepdaan) are burned all night long. Even today, many people buy gold, silver, or new utensils. The second day is marked by the belief that Lord Krishna killed the evil yet powerful overlord Narakasura. To commemorate the victory of good over evil, people get up early in the morning, bathe in oil and celebrate Naraka Chaturdashi.

On the third day of Diwali, Hindus worship the Goddess of wealth and prosperity. The fourth day of Diwali celebrates the victory of Lord Krishna over Indra, the god of heavens and the rain. When lord Indra tried to submerge the lands belonging to KrishnaÕs friends, it is said that Krishna lifted Govardhana Hill with his little finger to save the people and cattle from the floods. In North India this day is also known as Annakoot (mountain of food). People cook huge amounts of foods during the night that are piled up before the deities, symbolizing the Govardhan Hill, as an offering to Krishna. In other parts of India, this day commemorates the victory of Vishnu over the demon-king Bali. Bhayya-Dhuj, the last day of Diwali, celebrates the special relationship between brothers and sisters. It is the day that God of Death, Yama visited his sister Yami. The siblings ate sweets, enjoyed each others company and exchanged gifts when parting.

In the Bay Area, India Cultural Center (ICC) in Milpitas is continuing its tradition of Diwali Dhamaka featuring live Bollywood music by premier band ÒAndaz ExpressÓ on Friday, October 18. Tickets are available online at http://www.indiacc.org/diwali2013.
The Fremont Hindu Temple, in collaboration with FIA, will hold its Diwali Mela at the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton on Saturday, October 26. This will be a full day of food, fun, music, and crafts along with animal rides and petting zoo. There will be clothing and jewelry vendors displaying the latest in the Indian fashion scene. Cultural programs extend from noon to 5 p.m. followed by a parade and live evening concert by Harjeet Mehndi and ending with a fireworks extravaganza and laser show at 8:30 p.m. The parade is a special showcase of culture and ethnic heritage from all over India. Join thousands of people in the only Diwali show with spectacular fireworks!

Chabot College and Shreemaya Krishnadham Temple will also be hosting celebrations, and Swaminarayan Temple in Milpitas will have a unique food display on Saturday, November 17.

ICC Diwali Dhamaka
Friday, Oct 18
6 p.m. - 11 p.m.
India Community Center
525 Los Coches St., Milpitas
(408) 934-1130
www.indiacc.org
Tickets: $55 - $250

Diwali Mela
Sunday, Oct 20
10:30 a.m. Ð 7:30 p.m.
Chabot College
25555 Hesperian Blvd., Hayward
www.radiozindagi.com
Free

FIA Diwali Extravaganza
Saturday, Oct 26
11 a.m. Ð 10 p.m.
Alameda County Fairgrounds
4501 Pleasanton Ave., Pleasanton
(510) 565-9993
www.fiaonline.org/
Visit sulekha.com for tickets
Tickets: $4

Chopda Poojan
Sunday, Nov 3
11 a.m. Ð 1 p.m.
Shreemaya Krishnadham Temple and Community Center
25 Corning Ave., Milpitas
(408) 586-0006
http://bayvp.org/diwali-celebration/

BAPS Swaminarayan Temple Annakut
Sunday, Nov 17
BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir
1430 California Cir., Milpitas
(408) 262-0707
http://www.swaminarayan.org/globalnetwork/america/sanjose.htm
Free admission

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