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Celebrating Diwali in Jaipur

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We are fortunate this year that our time in Jaipur coincides with the Indian holiday of Diwali, or The Festival of Lights. Diwali is a particularly special holiday in this diverse nation, as it is a national holiday celebrated by Hindus, Jains, Sikhs and Newar Buddhists alike. For the last few days, the local community has been ushering in Diwali by decorating their homes, offices and business with lights, flowers and candles - and of course, the most delicious part of Diwali - sharing homemade Indian sweet with neighbors, friends and family. Attached please find some photos taken this morning, with everyone dressed in their holiday finery.

For those of you unfamiliar with Diwali, below is a brief explanation. President Barack Obama's excellent and well-informed Diwali video is available here.

"Diwali, the most colorful Indian festival, is celebrated on the Kartika Amavasya or New Moon, which falls during October/November. This year it is on the 17th October, 2009. Diwali is celebrated as the homecoming of Ramaafter a 14-year exile in the forest and his victory over Ravanaat many places of India and Nepal.The people of Ayodhya welcomed Rama by lighting rows (avali) of lamps (dĭya), thus its name: Dīwali.

In Jainism, Diwali marks the attainment of nirvana by Mahavira. Diwali has been significant in Sikhism since the illumination of the town of Amritsar commemorating the return of Guru Har Gobind Ji. The festival is also celebrated by Buddhists in Nepal, particularly the Newar Buddhists. In India and Nepal, Diwali is now considered to be a national festival, and the aesthetic aspect of the festival is enjoyed by most Indians and Nepalese regardless of faith. Diwali marks the end of the harvest season in most of India and Nepal. Farmers are thankful for the plentiful bounty of the year gone by, and pray for a good harvest for the year to come. Traditionally this marked the closing of accounts for businesses dependent on the agrarian cycle, and the last major celebration before winter. The Hindu goddess Lakshmi symbolizes wealth and prosperity, and her blessings are invoked for a good year ahead."

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Happy Diwali to everyone!
Jacqueline Dennis
Program Director