There are many Indians living in different parts of the world. To uphold their traditions in a foreign land, the local Indian communities in different parts of the world celebrate all popular Indian festivals. In Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Mauritius, Guyana, Trinidad & Tobago, Suriname, Malaysia, Singapore and Fiji, Diwali is declared as an official holiday as these countries have a very large Indian population.
Diwali celebrations in United States
The popular Indian festival of lights is also widely celebrated in United States, especially in states where there are large concentrations of Indian population. In some states, like Utah, Diwali has been proclaimed as their state festival. Typically, Indian communities, Hindu associations, Indian organizations and even few schools celebrate Diwali in the USA. To respect the culture of the migrant population in the country, many politicians and other public figures often wish the Indian population on the occasion of Diwali.
The Indian stores replenish their shops with jewelries and traditional outfits, statues of Hindu deities and various Indian sweets, making everything required for the celebrations available to them. The ladies paint the palms of their hand with mehendi (henna) and deck up in their best traditional outfits and wear their finest jewelries to celebrate the occasion.
Keeping up with the most symbolic ritual of lighting lamps during Diwali, people lit various lights, candles and even traditional oil lamps. The communities come together and present each other with assorted sweets and savories. Communities take specially permission to organize firework displays.
Diwali celebrations in Britain
Indians being the second largest ethnic minority in Britain, there is a strong influence of the Indian culture on the country, especially in areas with large Indian population. There are also many temples in the country, built by the communities that have made Britain their home. The city of Leicester in particular celebrates a spectacular Diwali with over 3500 people flocking Belgrave road in the thick of the Asian community. In London, the Mayor himself inaugurates the celebrations at Trafalgar Square.
The Diwali celebrations begin with a visit to the local temples, mainly to worship Goddess Lakshmi. Like in India, the Indian families in Britain too spring clean their homes and decorate it with Rangoli and lit up with lights, candles and lamps. People wear new clothes and jewelries and share various Indian sweets to celebrate the occasion.
The festival of Diwali falls in Oct- Nov months, when the winter season onsets in Britain. Despite the damp and cold climate, the enthusiasm is not marred and people celebrate the occasion of Diwali with as much rigor as you see in India.
Diwali celebrations in New Zealand
The Asia New Zealand Foundation oversees the Diwali celebrations in New Zealand. The celebrations are particularly big in Auckland and Wellington as the majority of Indians live in these cities. Since the actual days of celebration of Diwali may fall during the weekdays, the celebrations are made on the weekend. Diwali celebration amongst the Indians in New Zealand is not strictly traditional and is marked with Indian performances, ranging from classical dance, singing to puppet shows. Often the performers are flown in from India.
Diwali celebrations in Guyana
Located in the northeast coast of South America, Guyana has a large Hindu population that constitutes nearly 33% of the total population. Diwali is so popular in Guyana that it is declared a National holiday. The tradition of celebrating Diwali was introduced in the 18th century, when Indian slaves were brought into the country.
The rituals of the festival are similar to the rituals followed in India with people spring cleaning their home, doing elaborate decorations and lighting them with lamps and candle. The entire preparation is done to welcome Goddess Lakshmi into their homes. People exchange gifts and sweets and burn firecrackers in the evening. The tradition of wearing new clothes and accessories in Diwali is of special significance in Guyana. People here have a strong belief that wearing new clothes is symbolic of a healthy soul in a healthy body.
Diwali celebrations in Mauritius
Mauritius has a large Indian population constituting 63% of the entire population of the island. Diwali is thus so popular in the island that it is declared a national holiday. The beautiful and scenic Mauritius Island looks even more exquisite when fireworks lit up the dark nights, throwing its reflection on clear water of the India Ocean. The entire island is lit up from the flickering lamps outside every India’s house.
Diwali also signifies the onset of the summer season here. The merchants and businessmen consider Diwali to be an auspicious occasion for settling all accounts of the past year and to start with the New Year.
Although the rituals are observed by the Hindu families, the other communities are equally involved in the celebrations.
Diwali in Thailand
Like India, Thailand too is known for its diversity and hence it is only obvious that there is a great respect for multicultural customs and beliefs. Lam Kriyongh is the local name given to the festival of Diwali celebrated in the month of October/November. The rituals are similar to those in India. People put candles or oil lamps with burning incense and a coin on banana leaves, which are then set afloat on a river. With so many burning candles and oil lamps floating atop the river, the sight is breathtaking.
Thailand celebrates Diwali with less pomp and extravagance as compared to its maritime neighbor, India. However, the occasion does bring people together, who come out to wish each other and present sweets.
Diwali in Australia
There is a fairly large Indian community in Australia, who unlike those in Britain and Guyana, are recent arrivals to the country. To uphold their culture in a foreign land, the communities organize celebration of the popular Indian festivals like Diwali. Since the Indian community is not a long established group, there aren’t many Indian shops in the country and thus everything required for an elaborate Diwali celebration are not available. However, this doesn’t deter the enthusiastic Indians, who have adapted their Diwali rituals and celebrate it with equal fervor, as do the people in India.
Diwali in Nepal
Nepal is the one true Hindu kingdom of the world and is known to have a multi-ethnic society. The festival of light is one of the biggest festivals and is celebrated with same pomp and galore as it is in India. People of Nepal refer to Diwali as Tihar. People worship Goddess Lakshmi on the occasion of Tihar. Although Tihar is also celebrated over a 5 days period, each day has its own significance, which is different from the beliefs in India.
On the first day, people clean and feed their cows as there is a popular belief that Goddess Lakshmi travels on cows. Second day is dedicated to dogs as people believe that Bhairava travelled on dogs. People prepare delicious dog food and offer these to their dogs with respect. Third and the main day of Diwali is illuminated with lights and prayers are offered to Goddess Lakshmi. People exchange sweets and lit firecrackers throughout the night. On the fourth day, people worship the God of Death, Yama to ask him for their long lives. Fifth day is Bhai Dooj, a day of celebration of the bond between a brother and his sister. Sisters pray for their brother’s long and prosperous life and in turn the brothers offer them presents.
Diwali celebrations in Singapore
There is a large number of Indians in Singapore who celebrate all popular Indian festivals with much enthusiasm. Serangoon road or the “little India” is the hub of local Indian community and thus the entire area is decorated and lit up during Diwali. With over 18 temples in Singapore, the Diwali tradition of offering prayers at the temple is also a customary ritual of the Indian people living in Singapore.
Dressed in their best clothes and accessories, people come together to wish one another and present sweets. Crackers are not allowed in Singapore to avoid noise pollution. However sparkles are allowed and are widely burnt by children to observe the tradition of lighting firecrackers during Diwali.
Diwali celebrations in South Africa
South African was home to the largest immigrant community in the world before the colonization by the USA. Most of these Indians are settled in the eastern regions of Natal and Transvaal of the country. There are as many as one million Indian immigrants in South Africa, of which Hindus are in majority. Thus, it is obvious that Hindu festivals are widely celebrated by the Hindu community in South Africa. Diwali being one of the biggest Hindu festivals, it is also celebrated by the Indians in South Africa. Although the 5 day rituals of celebration are similar to those in India, there are some regional variations as the Indians in South Africa are a mix of people originally from different parts of India, mainly Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu.
Diwali celebrations in Trinidad and Tobago
Trinidad and Tobago too has a large population of immigrant Indians and hence the vibrant Indian culture is very much alive there. Over 43% of the total population of this beautiful Caribbean island comprise of Indians. Given the popularity of the festival here, the Government also recognizes it as a national holiday. Diwali is so popular in the region that the celebration goes on for over 10 days, with even the various ministers of the government participating in the celebrations. The Headquarters of the National Council of Indian Culture, located at the very aptly named Diwali Nagar, takes the initiative to organize elaborate Diwali celebrations.
The Diwali rituals are same as those observed in India, where people pray, feast, light oil lamps and burn crackers during the 5 days long celebration. However, there are few unique rituals of celebration of Diwali, carried out only in Trinidad. In the weeks leading up to the festival, all the villages in Trinidad organize open air theaters, where the participating actors enact the stories of origin of Diwali. Other similar shows, depicting the culture of India and Hindus in particular are also staged.
The lighting of lamps in Trinidad is unprecedented. People lit up every corner of their respective villages. The lamps used are the traditional lamps, originally used for Diwali celebrations in ancient times in India. These are clay lamps with a lit wick immersed in oil. These lamps are placed over various beautifully designed platforms of bamboo stalks spread through the village.
Diwali celebrations in Malaysia
Malaysia is well known for its diversity. Although the Indians comprise only 8% of the total population of Malaysia, Diwali is still a popular festival and even a public holiday. Diwali is referred to as Hari Diwali in Malaysia and is celebrated almost all over Malaysia except in Sarawak and Federal Territory of Labuan. Compared to most other countries, Diwali celebrations are relatively less elaborate here but nonetheless its significance is no less. As firecrackers are banned in Singapore, the celebrations are not as loud and colorful as they are in India. The celebrations are mainly characterized by offering prayers at home and temples and exchanging sweets and wishing each other on this day.
Diwali celebrations in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is located on the southeast of India. Diwali is of very great significance in Sri Lanka as one of the many stories of origins of the festival of Diwali is related to this land. The popular Diwali rituals are also observed in Sri Lanka. A particular type of sweet, called misiri, made entirely of sugar is the main sweet of the occasion. Although there is not much pomp and extravagance in Diwali celebration in Sri Lanka, the tradition of visiting temples to offer prayers to Goddess Lakshmi and organizing large sumptuous meal are still customary.
Diwali celebrations in Kenya and Tanzania
Although only 1% of the entire population of these countries taken together comprise of the Indians in these regions, they are still an influential and well respected group, owing to their significant impact on the economy of the country. To uphold there traditions, away from their motherland, the Indians in these regions come together to celebrate all significant Indian festivals together. Diwali is a national holiday in these countries.
The Indian community is a very close community, generally isolated from the indigenous people, and hence, without an external influence, they follow the same rituals of Diwali that are followed in India.
Diwali celebrations in Indonesia
The name Indonesia is made up of two Greek words, “Indos” meaning Indian and “Nosos” meaning islands. Hindus constitute only 2% of the entire population of Indonesia, of which majority live in Bali. The Indians in Bali celebrate Diwali with grandeur and follow the same rituals as there is in India.
Diwali celebrations in Japan
Diwali is also celebrated in the land of rising sun, Japan. Although the celebrations are similar to those in India, there is a certain unique ritual of Diwali in Japan. People hang beautiful arts made from paper and lanterns on trees in orchards and gardens.
People decorate their homes and specially the places of worship with beautiful wallpapers and celebrate throughout the night with music and dance.
Diwali celebrations in Fiji
The large Indian population in Fiji celebrates Diwali with much grandeur. The festival is so popular that Diwali is a national holiday in the Island. People, outside of the Indian Hindu community, also participate in the celebration and the whole atmosphere of the island is filled with excitement. It is an opportunity for people from different backgrounds to bond and reinforce their spirit of communal harmony.
Many schools allow Diwali celebrations to give young students an opportunity to learn about the traditions. Schools organize singing, essay writing, quiz, Rangoli making and other competitions. In many schools, Goddess Lakshmi is worshiped. These efforts help in reinforcing the bonds in a multi-cultural society.