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.
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.
On October 15, 527 BCE, Lord Mahavira attained Nirvana at the dawn of the new moon, an event which is marked today.
Harmandhir Sahib (The Golden Temple)
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.
A Bhangra performance that got the crowd going
Amoeba’s own Tim Shimbles in front of a clothing store
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!