The essence of mogra fills up the room as we prepare the lamps to be lit. Diwali is celebrated with great enthusiasm at my home. A tradition that we have been following year after year. The festivities that bring the entire family together. Choti Diwali (first day) begins with me doing aarti and tika to my children, following it with the traditional first bath. An assortment of 5 (paste of oil, methi, badam, khus khus, utna) set in a silver thali. Each of these items have a specific significance.
- Oil : To soften the skin, hydrate it. The massage of the oil creates circulation which means movement. Movement towards good health.
- Methi : The fenugreek seeds are soaked overnight and then made into a smooth paste for application. This has anti inflammatory and antiseptic properties.
- Badam : Almonds are soaked overnight too and made into a paste. The application of this provides strength and radiance to the skin.
- KhusKhus : Also known as Poppy seeds. These are known for their pain relieving properties and calming sensitive skin.
- Utna : A fragrant mixture made out of 5 ingredients namely Camphor, sandalwood, turmeric, Manjistha and rose petals. This is applied at the end, to remove all impurities and dead skin. It also gives the skin a perfumed effect.
I have been following this tradition with my children even though they are much older now. Every year I repeat the importance of this ritual and they fool around, enjoying the attention and pampering. I realized how deeply it has been ingrained into them, when my daughter still did it for herself alone in London. That was the only Diwali she spent away from home in the first year of her education abroad. She even sent me a video of it that got me into tears. (As over emotional Indian mothers are!!)
Diwali for us is not about firecrackers or cards but about togetherness, bonding, family gatherings and traditions. My eco- friendly children have long given up the bursting of fire-crackers years ago. We light lamps, a symbol of welcoming the Goddess of knowledge, wealth and prosperity and then do the Laxmi puja. When the kids were younger, Diwali meant everyone planning holidays out of Mumbai but, irrespective of where we went, we had to be back home for Puja with the entire family together. I have kept the tradition alive, hoping it will continue to the generation next. I believe that prayers said together, with equal and true belief increase its depth and sanctity. Positivity begets positive vibes and the sanctum exudes that aura. So Diwali day (Laxmi Puja day) is always at home with the family and all plans are made before or after.
Diwali cleaning started almost a month ago. This act helps in de-cluttering. As one goes about cleaning dust and cobwebs or in regularly cleaned houses, merely rearranging your cupboards, inevitably one does that with one’s mind too. We realize a lot of things that we have been holding on to, we should actually let go. Unburden oneself and move on. Even wearing new clothes for Diwali is actually a way to remind us that we can re- align, re-view, and re-start our minds and lives by changing the old things. When we sort out the old belongings we also realize that we can use that to help others less fortunate. We don’t have to wait for a time when we can afford substantial charity, we can begin with the smallest and simplest of things. When we learn to share, we get trained to care. These are but simple translations of simple traditions that we all follow during Diwali. But when we do so without thought it loses its importance and becomes a mere ritual.
As we begin the festivities of Diwali this year, let us all endeavor to use these traditions to enhance our lives, add smiles to others and create what I truly believe in, “A celebration of life.”
Wish you all a very Happy and prosperous Diwali