While the traditions of the holiday have their origins in the Hindu religion, Deepawali is considered a Pan-Indian holiday. In other words, Indians from every faith '97 including Hindu, Sikhism, Jain, Islam, Buddhist and even Christians '97 take part in the celebration. According to Madhu Shah, a member of the board of trustees for the Hindu Temple and Cultural Center in Pelham, Deepawali is one of the most significant holidays in Indian culture.
'93Deepawali is a celebration of light,'94 Shah says. '93It is for everyone to celebrate. It is our Christmas and our New Year'92s, too, and we invite everyone to celebrate it with us.'94
Deepawali, also called Diwali, lasts five days as it is celebrated in India. Homes are thoroughly cleaned in preparation, and in Hindu households, the windows are opened to welcome Laksmi, the goddess of wealth. Candles and lamps, called '93deep'94 and considered a symbol of knowledge, are lit to welcome the goddess. In fact, thousands of lamps, candles and lights are lit during Deepawali, literally shedding new light on people'92s homes and everyday surroundings.
In many rural parts of India, Deepawali doubles as a harvest festival, since it occurs at the end of the harvest season. As harvest typically means prosperity, the celebratory tradition was begun by Indian farmers after they reaped their harvest. They celebrated with joy and offered praises to the gods for granting them a good crop. In modern times, friends and families exchange gifts during Deepawali and families enjoy elaborate meals together.
'93This is a holiday that has a very good significance behind it, whatever religion you are,'94 says Dr. Jeet Bagga, president of the Indian Cultural Association. '93The point is the destruction of evil, the casting out of evil by lighting up everything.'94
On Monday and Tuesday, Oct. 27-28, at Taj India, the Deepawali buffet will feature five vegetarian dishes; two snacks; three meat dishes, including lamb, chicken and fish; a salad bar; three desserts and a complimentary glass of wine. The set price is $15.95. Regular menu items will only be available for take-out during the festival. Call 939-3805 to make reservations.