Indian community gear up to celebrate Diwali with lights, fireworks and sweets
ABU DHABI // Fireworks and bright lights will dominate the night skies from Sunday as Indian communities across the UAE unite to celebrate Diwali.
The Hindu festival, which signifies the victory of light over darkness, good over evil, knowledge over ignorance and hope over despair, involves followers of the religion decorating their homes with lights and launching fireworks in celebration.
Although today marks day three of the five-day festival, the main festivities take place on this day.
Celebrations started early on Friday – the first day of the festival, known as Dhanteras – with gold jewellery the traditional gift of choice for many.
For some expats, a tinge of sadness failed to dampen the excitement. “Generally, we don’t miss anything here, as many of our relatives and friends live here, so we visit their homes and they come to mine,” said Kushal Kumar, who lives in Abu Dhabi.
“There are several Indian social centres in Abu Dhabi and all of them host some kind of Diwali festivities that we attend.”
Like many of his countrymen, Mr Kumar lit 30 clay lamps, or diyas, in his home to mark the festival and has also been enjoying karaoke with friends.
“Back home, diyas cover the house and we burst plenty of firecrackers but not here,” he said.
“We draw rangoli [patterns] at home. They are drawn on the floor with white sand or using colours to bring good luck.”
Illuminating diyas and decorating the home with lights is a tradition – but so too is shopping, puja (prayers) and gifts. Fine foods and sweets are another feature of the celebrations.
There are some, however, who miss sharing the special time of year with family thousands of kilometres away.
“We can’t do that much celebration and activities here, as we do in India,” said capital resident J Dilip Kumar.
“We are abroad and it feels lonely. Before, my family was here but since my children started going to university I sent them back home.
“This year, I will be going to the India Social and Cultural Centre to join in the celebrations.”
Diwali is celebrated in countries including Fiji, Guyana, Pakistan, Malaysia, Mauritius, Myanmar, Singapore and Sri Lanka, but is widely marked in India and Nepal because of their large Hindu populations.
Ras Al Khaimah resident Sudip Karki said the UAE was a very liberal country where all nationalities lived in harmony to freely celebrate their festivities.
“We miss our parents, relatives and bursting firecrackers, as it’s not allowed here,” he said. “It’s difficult to even find shops selling firecrackers here.
“But we get together with the Nepalese community to share sweets and greetings.”
Mr Karki, the head of the Non-Resident Nepalese Association, said missing family on such occasions was a small sacrifice to achieve life goals in the UAE.
On Dhanteras, depending on their income, devout worshippers buy everything, including kitchen essentials and electronics, but the charm remains in buying gold and silver coins, biscuits or jewellery.
Mr Karki decided to buy gold jewellery for his wife, a luxury treat not all workers can afford.
“We just buy some sweets and share among friends and do pooja prayer,” said Indian worker Sohan Lal.
“We then go out to the city to enjoy a good meal. I’ve remitted money to my parents so they can fully enjoy the occasion too.”
Updated: October 29, 2016 04:00 AM