Food & Traditions
Diwali is the Festival of Light and arguably the most celebrated event on the Hindu religious calendar for South African Hindus. Its rich symbolism is something all cultures can relate to as the eternal quest for good to conquer evil.
Join me as I reflect on this Hindu religious festival in a series of blogs in November. I will be sharing the traditions and the delicious food that accompanies it. I’ll cover my personal experiences as well as anecdotes from my Tamil family and the Gujarati family I married into.
What is Diwali
Diwali celebrates the return home of the beloved Ram & Sita, Ayodhya’s king & queen living in exile. Ravana had abducted Sita to his island of Lanka (Sri-lanka). To reach Lanka Ram and his brother Lakshmana enlist the help of the demi-god Hanuman and his army. They build a bridge across the sea between India and Lanka. They defeat Ravana and bring Sita home to the kingdom of Ayodhya. The lamps that are lit even today are a vigil awaiting their return. It is intended to light their way home and is a symbol of the single light needed to dispel a night of darkness.
Hindus all over the world fast for a month (Purtassi/Shravan) with the intention of purifying their minds and bodies. The last 2 weeks in any Hindu household is a storm of twirling curtains, new linen, cleaned cupboards and lots of polish (Brasso usually 🙂 ) as householders transform their homes into a pristine haven. Not to be shadowed by this frenetic activity, is the culinary art of sweetmeat making.
Sweetmeats are the hallmark of Indian desserts. The sweet aromas of burfee, chana magaj, gulaab jamun, naan katai, chevra, murkhoo and jelebi taunt children. No one can taste of the bounty until the morning prayer on Diwali day. There is balance in all things however as each sweet offering is counter balanced with a savoury offering. The offerings are uneven in number always to signify the remaining One.