Perhaps the most well known of the Hindu festivals, Deepavali, or Diwali for short, is a bright, colourful five-day festival celebrating the victory of good over evil, light over darkness, and knowledge over ignorance.
Festival of Light
Although the legends behind the Diwali celebrations differ slightly between countries, there is a common theme: light. Diwali is also known as the ‘festival of lights’, and Hindus herald its arrival by decorating shops and houses with small, clay oil lamps known as ‘diyas’. Did you know that some species in the natural world are capable of creating their own form of light? Check out this awesome Chinese lettuce coral!
Lakshmi – the Goddess of Wealth
The new business year starts during Diwali, with the bright lamps guiding and welcoming Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, into people’s homes to grant them a successful year. This tradition got us thinking about a different kind of wealth: the wealth of nature. Life on Earth is incredibly diverse, ranging from the smallest bug to the largest whale, and it’s amazing how even two individuals of the same species can look so very different. Take these two dyeing poison frogs, for instance…would you have known they were the same species?!
As well as the warm, glowing lights, other sacred symbols are used to welcome Hindu deities into homes, including ‘rangoli’. Rangoli are decorative patterns formed on the floors of living rooms and courtyards, often using materials such as coloured rice, flour and sand, and even flower petals. A particularly popular rangoli subject is the beautiful lotus flower.
In northern India and elsewhere, Diwali celebrates the tale of Rama, a courageous man who fought a war to liberate his wife from her captor, Ravana. Along his journey, Rama met Hanuman, the monkey god, who helped him defeat the evil forces, and who is now worshipped as a symbol of physical strength, perseverance and devotion. Did you know that the gray langur is also known as the Hanuman langur?
In many households, Diwali is a time for families to wear new clothes. We’re fairly certain that, with such stunning plumage, the seven-coloured tanager and the military macaw would be rather proud to join in and show off their beautifully colourful attire!
A time for sharing
During the Diwali celebrations, families and friends prepare meals together, exchange gifts, and share sweets and snacks with one another. With its brightly coloured mouth that almost looks like it’s bordered by four blue light-bulbs, this young Gouldian finch appears to be getting in the spirit of Diwali…although it does seem rather impatient for a tasty treat!
Diwali is also a time to have fun with family and friends, and stunning fireworks displays are especially popular events. We’ve found some fiery flora that would add a bit of ‘ooooh’ and ‘aaaah’ to any Diwali party!
Kathryn Pintus, ARKive Text Author