The questionable post of a satellite picture of India lit up amidst a sea of darkness might do the rounds of social media every year during Diwali, but it’s not just India that comes alive during this festive season. Although Diwali is a regional festival, there are various countries around the globe where ‘the festival of lights’ is celebrated with great fervour and fanfare.
Whether it’s the strong presence of expats abroad or a fascination for the festival of lights, here are seven places outside India, where Diwali is celebrated with equal, if not more, zeal.
Showcasing the diversity of Mauritius and as a testimonial of its welcoming attitude to people of all ethnicities, Diwali has become an important festival of the region. In keeping with its traditional symbolism of new beginnings, Diwali also marks the beginning of summer in Mauritius. It is a common sight to see the skies of Mauritius glimmer with fireworks and lanterns as people indulge in traditional delicacies and celebrate the festival over a period of 5 days.
2. Leicester City
Remnants of British influence had always tempted Indians to flock to the UK in search of better opportunities and quality of life. And it’s no surprise, given the massive Hindu diaspora settled in the UK that Diwali is one of the most celebrated Indian festivals in prominent parts of the country, such as Leicester City. The place warmed to the idea of celebrating Diwali as early as 1983 and today, it’s one of the most popular places outside India to experience the true essence of the festival.
3. Republic of Guyana
A cauldron of cultures, the Republic of Guyana has set an example in essaying the true meaning of co-existence by mass participation in festivals of different faiths. While the Hindus who have settled there engage in the routine deep-cleaning and decorating of their houses, the natives too join in for some unbridled fun, food, and fireworks.
Diwali in Thailand may go by a different name – Lam Kriyongh – but it embodies the same essence of the traditional festival of light. The island country celebrates Diwali by lighting lamps made from banana leaves and stuffed with candles and coins are set afloat on the river. So, if you want to see not just the sky but also the water sparkling with light, visit Thailand during Diwali. It will surely live up to your expectations.
Fiji is home to many Indians whose ancestors were sent to the island as indentured labourers to work on sugar plantations. Today, while the labour system has been abolished, Indian sentiments and rituals are not only intact but they are highly cherished by the native and expat communities. The festival that’s symbolic of good over evil also highlights that, eventually, it’s the good in people and their actions that can make one forget the past and start anew.
Whether it is the widespread presence of ‘Little India’ or the cultural and historical entwining of Indian and Malaysian traditions, come Diwali, you will see the streets and houses decorated with candles, clay lamps and fairy lights. While the festivities around Diwali peak on the actual day of the festival, preparations are well underway across the region, in advance.
The multicultural spirit of Australia, coupled with a flourishing Indian population, has introduced the country to numerous Indian traditions and festivals. It is with much anticipation that people gather to watch Federation Square gleam under the lights from the floating lanterns as strangers share sweets on the road, celebrating Diwali with full gusto. If there’s one place where you must see collective camaraderie and celebration, it’s Melbourne.
Without a doubt, we live in fantastic times, when geographical boundaries are blurring and traditions and cultures are finding new homes.