Hindus especially in India have just rejoiced. They celebrated a holiday called Diwali, a festival of light which is celebrated every year in the Hindu calendar. This year Diwali falls on November 7.
Diwali, which is sometimes called Dipavali, Deepawali or Deepavali, is the most well-known lighting festival that is eagerly awaited every year in India. People participated in this event joyfully.
Why Should Diwali Be Legalized as National Holidays?
During the Diwali celebration, residents performed ritual cleansing, ranging from cleaning and decorating houses, gathering for special parties, exchanging gifts, lighting fireworks, and last but not least, lighting lots of oil lamps.
This year, India broke the Guinness world record for igniting oil lamps. On the banks of the Serayu River which stretches through the holy city of Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh, as many as 301152 lights are lit simultaneously for five minutes which provides breathtaking views for thousands of city dwellers and visitors.
This year’s Diwali celebration in Ayodhya feels even more special when the first lady of South Korea, Kim Jung-sook, attends the celebration. The visit was meaningful because the royal princess Ayodhya was once told to visit Korea. Not only in India, several other countries also participated in celebrating Diwali. In Sri Lanka, the festival is largely celebrated by the Tamil community spread across various islands, but is mostly concentrated in the north. Diwali is also celebrated by the Hindu community in Bangladesh, Nepal, Malaysia, Pakistan and others.
The joy of Diwali spread to Indonesia. In North Sumatra, especially in Medan, many people live in Indian descent. They lived in the capital of North Sumatra from generation to generation since the mid-19th century and have become part of Indonesian citizens. Reporting from Gatra, the celebration of the 2018 Diwali in Medan was also enlivened by the Indian Culture Week which was held on November 1-7, 2018.
Gatra reported, the excitement of Diwali in Medan was the most lively to be witnessed in Madras Village which was dubbed the “Little Town of India”. Various colorful decorations can be seen on the street for about one kilometer.
A row of shophouses belonging to residents of Indian descent, especially Hindus, are adorned with lamp ornaments with beautiful shapes and colors. The fragrance of flowers and spices is also felt when passing through the Madras Village.
What is Diwali?
The sparkling oil lamps in the Diwali celebration symbolize victory over darkness. Light is a symbol of knowledge and wisdom, while darkness represents all bad things such as evil, destruction, violence, lust, envy, injustice, greed, oppression, and suffering.
As Independent noted, the background that accompanied Diwali was a reminder of Rama’s victory against the demon Ravana and Rama’s return to his kingdom at Ayodhya after 14 years in exile. As noted in the Ramayana epic written by Walmiki, Rahwana kidnapped Shinta, Rama’s wife. With the help of Hanoman, Rama defeated Ravana. After that, the residents who missed their king immediately cleaned the house and the street, and at night adorned the house with dipa lights.
Diwali also paid homage to Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity. For some people, Diwali is believed to fall on the goddess’s birthday and the date when he married Lord Vishnu. Many people in India leave their windows and doors open and turn on bright lights as a means of welcoming Lakshmi to their home.
In India, different regions, different interpretations of the Diwali story. If in northern India Diwali marks the return of Rama to the ancient city of Ayodhya, the South Indians celebrate it as the day when Krishna defeated Narakasura as a demon of darkness. In western India, Diwali means the celebration of the top marked by Vishnu who beat back the demon of Bali.
If the narratives of all the regions are combined – Rama returns to Ayodhya, Krishna kills Narakasura, and Vishnu defeats the King of Bali – Diwali is finally celebrated as a victory day for good against evil.
Diwali is celebrated for five consecutive days. The first day is called Dhanteras, second is Narak Chaturdasi, third is Lakshmi Puja, fourth is Padwa, and finally Bhai Duj. Each day has a different ritual.
The annual Diwali celebration falls between October or November. The exact date can change every year, considering that Diwali is calculated based on the Hindu calendar.
Besides Hinduism, Sikh, Jain and Buddhist religions also celebrate Diwali with different meanings and rituals. Even so, all agreed that Diwali was the day of victory, when light prevailed against darkness.
In his home country, India, Diwali is designated as a national holiday. Several other countries with populations of Indian descendants who are Hindus join in establishing Diwali day as a national holiday, for example Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Nepal, Singapore and Malaysia. Outside of Asia, countries such as Fiji, Mauritius, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana and Suriname also mark Diwali as a national holiday.
While in Indonesia, Diwali is not yet a national holiday. In fact, there are quite a number of Indonesians of Indian descent and who are Hindus in a number of areas.
Indian descent communities in Indonesia are hoping for the government to include Diwali on a national holiday. One of them was voiced by an Indonesian youth figure of Indian descent, KRT Abhiram Singh Yadav in 2015 who expected the Indonesian government to grant the status of a national holiday for Diwali as a symbol of recognition of Indian ethnicity.
“Mr. President, every year, for the sake of justice, we always hope that Diwali can enter the official calendar of the country. Almost every year we young people also voiced this. Please hear our voices,” said KRT Abhiram Singh Yadav as Vice Chairman of the CAYC (Committee for ASEAN Youth Cooperation) for three periods as Indonesia’s representative, quoted from Antara.
Reported from Liputan6, on 31 October 2013, the Provincial Government of DKI Jakarta set Diwali as a facultative holiday through a letter from the Jakarta Office of Manpower and Transmigration No. 5666 / -1,834.1. Facultative holidays refer to special holidays given to specific religious groups or identity groups. In the era of Gus Dur’s government, Chinese New Year celebrated the status of a facultative holiday before finally increasing to become a national holiday. In the case of Diwali, the status of facultative holidays from the regions then rose to national status in 2017, even though it has not yet been a national holiday.
The Director General of Hindu Guidance of the Ministry of Religion of the Republic of Indonesia, I Ketut Widnya, stated that the facultative holiday for the celebration of the Holy Day of Diwali was only for Indian Hindus in Indonesia.
“The facultative holiday (not required) this Diwali was proposed by Gemasadhana and recommended by the central PHDI. The letter was to the president, then the president then instructed the minister of religion to be studied, and the minister of religion asked the Director General of Hinduism to study,” Widnya said.