By Anton Constantinou
November is a month marked by many observation days, including Diwali: Hinduism’s glittering festival of lights. The event takes place every autumn and is celebrated all over the world.
Otherwise known as Deepavali or Dipavali, it represents the triumph of good over evil, and is observed by not only Hindus but also Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains. The festival lasts five days and consists of firework displays, family feasts and a festive sharing of sweets, amongst other rituals.
With roots stretching back to ancient India, Diwali remains a long-standing tradition in the lives of millions, and takes many forms around the globe.
As a hotbed for Hindu culture, Asia-Pacific accounts for some truly impressive Diwali celebrations.
In this article, we take a look at…
How Diwali is celebrated in Asia-Pacific
Whilst not a public holiday in Australia, Diwali is celebrated all over the country. The country is home to some 100,000 Indian people – a large number of whom are Hindu. Its many celebrations include The Victorian Festival of Diwali which takes place in Federation Square and brings together traditional music, cinema and workshops. Also popular is the Deepavali Festival, which offers live performances and festive activities across a variety of locations in Adelaide, Canberra and New South Wales.
China plays host to a plethora of Diwali-related events on Lantau Island and Wyndham Street as well as in restaurants around the country. Its various temples such as Hindu Temple and the Kowloon Hindu Temple, meanwhile, offer a religious sanctuary for the special occasion.
As the epicentre for the Festival of Lights, India pulls out all the stops for Diwali with indoor and outdoor parades dotted about its cities. Delhi’s biggest market, Dilli Haat, hosts a special Diwali bazaar ahead of the festival, whilst Jaipur’s numerous buildings and markets are illuminated especially for the occasion. Goa’s version of the event is centred on the destruction of Narakasura: a legendary figure in Hinduism and a source of evil. Participants are invited to take part in village competitions by making giant effigies of the demon.
In the Land of the Rising Sun, Diwali is observed as a time which awards progress, prosperity, longevity and happiness in life. It’s marked by the hanging of lanterns and paper-made structures on the branches of trees in gardens and orchards, and is also enjoyed in many places of worship across the country.
New Zealand puts on some fabulous Diwali-themed celebrations including a terrific event at Papatoe Library, combining cultural activities and shows. Sudima Hotel Rotorua is, meanwhile, hosting an array of tantalising Diwali dinners served in traditional thalis. Admission is free, and the price for a set menu is $29 per person.
Diwali remains one of Singapore’s major cultural festivals, and is celebrated in style throughout the country. A popular focal point for the event is Singapore’s Little India district, which offers installations and festive street lights. There you’ll find Deepavali Light-Up event, which takes place on Serangoon Road and Race Course Road, along with Deepavali Festival Village – known for its various market stalls selling local sweets and delicacies.
In Thailand, Diwali is commonly celebrated under the name Loi Krathong: a Siamese festival involving the floating of decorative items down a river. As a diverse country home to lots of different cultures, Thailand embraces Diwali much in the same way that India does – with colourful processions and gift-giving. Other traditions include beauty pageants and krathong-making competitions.