Diwali – aka Deepavali aka Tihar aka Swanti

Diwali in Little India

Diwali (or Deepavali, Tihar or Swanti) is a festival of lights primarily celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and Newar Bhuddists but also, occasionally, fans of holidays, South Asian food or culture. As with all ancient holidays, the true origins are obscure but undoubtedly symbolize the triumph of good over evil. Probably due to its timing, it wouldn’t be too unlikely that its roots were in an ancient harvest festival. As is also true of all ancient holidays, Diwali acquired additional significance over the millenia for different people. In the modern age it’s marked with lots of lights, house cleanings, new outfits, decorations, flowers and snacking on sweets. This year Diwali fell on the 28th, but was celebrated in the Southland’s Little India neighborhood yesterday, on the first.

Ghar Main Ho Sali To Pura Sal Diwali Diwali Card

Newars in Seattle Newars on Tihar

Newar celebrating Tihar
Diwali Diwali

For Hindus

Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth, is honored on this day to ensure a good year will follow and, in northern India, the financial year begins on Diwali. In parts of India, the homecoming of King Rama of Ayodhya is observed with the lighting of rows (avali) of lamps (deepa) which were used to light his way after a 14 year exile. In western India it marks the day King Bali was sent to rule the underworld by Vishnu. Southern India marks it as the day Lord Krishna defeated the demon Narakasura.

 Jain Symbol Lord Mahavira

For Jains

On October 15, 527 BCE, Lord Mahavira attained Nirvana at the dawn of the new moon, an event which is marked today.

Golden Temple

Harmandhir Sahib (The Golden Temple)

For Sikhs

Sikhs observe the day because Guru Hargobind Ji was freed, along with 52 Hindu princes. They had been held as political prisoners. Upon freedom Ji went to the golden temple (Darbar Sahib) in Amritsar where he was received by the people with candles and diyas. It also marks the martyrdom of Bhai Mani Singh Ji, who was cut into pieces for refusing to pay taxes on Diwali.

Musicians at Little India's Diwali Celebration

A Bhangra performance that got the crowd going

Tim Latham in front of a Sari Shop

Amoeba’s own Tim Shimbles in front of a clothing store

Little India

Los Angeles County’s Little India was formerly a dairy district inhabited mainly by Dutch and Portuguese immigrants. When the land grew in value after World War II, many of the dairy farmers sold their property and moved elsewhere. A generation later, with the 1965 relaxation of restrictions against Asian immigrants, many South Asians moved to L.A.’s suburbs. In 1970, the growing Indian community convinced the owners of L.A.’s first Indian grocery store, Selecto Spices, to relocate from Los Angeles’ armpit (Hollywood) to Artesia. And there, between 183rd and 188th along Pioneer Blvd, Little India has gradually grown. For Diwali, they shut down the street and somewhere between 10 and 15 thousand people enjoyed Indian and Pakastani food (or even Halal KFC), music, goods, rides, &c… but no fireworks!

Balcony view of Little India's Diwali Celebration

Eric Brightwell is an adventurer, essayist, rambler, explorer, cartographer, and guerrilla gardener who is always seeking paid writing, speaking, traveling, and art opportunities. He is not interested in generating advertorials, cranking out clickbait, or laboring away in a listicle mill “for exposure.”
Brightwell has written for Angels Walk LAAmoeblogBoom: A Journal of CaliforniadiaCRITICSHidden Los Angeles, and KCET Departures. His art has been featured by the American Institute of Architects, the Architecture & Design Museum, the Craft ContemporaryForm Follows FunctionLos Angeles County Store, the book SidewalkingSkid Row Housing Trust, and 1650 Gallery. Brightwell has been featured as subject in The Los Angeles TimesHuffington PostLos Angeles MagazineLAistCurbedLAEastsider LABoing BoingLos Angeles, I’m Yours, and on Notebook on Cities and Culture. He has been a guest speaker on KCRW‘s Which Way, LA?, at Emerson College, and the University of Southern California.
Brightwell is currently writing a book about Los Angeles and you can follow him on AmebaDuolingoFacebookGoodreadsInstagramMubiand Twitter.

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