x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

The golden glow of Diwali

Today is the Hindu festival of Diwali, a celebration of the triumph of good over evil that is observed by decorating homes with lamps, exchanging sweets and shopping, especially for gold.

People offer prayers for Diwali at the temple in Bur Dubai.
People offer prayers for Diwali at the temple in Bur Dubai.

Buildings from Abu Dhabi to Ajman will be a whole lot brighter this evening as Indians bask in the glow of the light festival of Diwali. Expatriates will come together to celebrate the final day of the Hindu festival by lighting earthen lamps to signify the journey from darkness and the triumph of good over evil. Indians in Dubai and Abu Dhabi began their celebrations last Friday, with cultural programmes featuring songs and dances.

By Sunday, hundreds of building in areas such as Al Karama, Bur Dubai and Deira were adorned with lights and lanterns, or kandils, which are made of colourful paper. Diwali celebrates the return of the ancient King of Ayodhya, Rama, along with his wife Sita and brother Lakshman to his kingdom, ending 14 years of exile, after a war in which he killed the demon king, Ravana. It is believed that even the poorest of families in Ayodhya lit at least one terracotta lamp filled with oil along the way to guide their path through the darkness.

Long queues have been forming outside the Hindu temple in Bur Dubai as Indians gathered to pray at their only temple in the country. Dressed in new clothes, young men and women and families queued up with flowers and sweets as offerings to the gods. "It is a very important religious week for us as it gives us an opportunity to connect with our roots," said Amol Kumar, who was at the temple to pray.

More people are expected today for the final day of the celebrations. Many Hindus also celebrate Diwali with a little shopping since they are expected to wear new clothes and buy household essentials for the festival. "We have been preparing for Diwali since last month. Home-made sweets are ready and there will be a puja [religious offering] tonight," said Alka Shukla, a resident of Bur Dubai. Meanwhile, shops in areas such as the Meena Bazaar in Bur Dubai and Deira are offering Diwali gifts and sweets made of dry fruits and milk. Families buy these sweets to exchange with relatives and friends along with Diwali wishes.

The festival is considered an auspicious time to buy gold, and prices soar. Tushar Patni, of Ajantha Jewellers in Abu Dhabi, said despite the global financial turmoil "shopping is going great guns". The gold souks in Deira in Dubai and Madinat Zayed in Abu Dhabi were also flooded with Indian families shopping for gold jewellery over the past few days. "Everyone must buy some gold as part of our tradition. It has really helped us that the gold prices have fallen and many say it also makes economic sense to buy gold now," said one shopper at Bur Dubai.

The Maharashtra Mandal celebrated Diwali Pahaat at the Cassells Hotel in Abu Dhabi last Friday with a series of classical Indian music dating back to the 12th century and decorations in the form of rangoli - intricate paintings made on the ground using coloured rice powder. "It was basically about meeting and greeting and sharing sweets. Over the next few days, most people will invite each other into each other's homes and the festivities will continue. You will see ladies on the roads wearing new silk saris and children in shiny, new clothes, and on their way to celebrations," said Anil Pakale, president of the Maharashtra Mandal.

The Gujarati community will celebrate this Friday with an afternoon of music and food at the Sudanese Club. The UAE telecom operator du announced off-peak rates all day today on all international calls and discounted rates of 15 fils for local SMS and 45 fils for international SMS. sbhattacharya@thenational.ae pmenon@the national.ae