KARACHI: Houses decorated with multi-coloured lights, colourful rangolis and the glow of oil lamps were all that could be seen at the Swami Narayan Temple compound on the fifth day of Diwali prayers on Sunday night.
With the conclusion of the prayers, the festival of lights began and loud pops of fire crackers resounded in the air, illuminating the sky in intermittent bursts of light.
“We mark this day to celebrate the return of Ramchandra home with his wife Seeta after spending 14 years of vanvas [exile] in a forest,” explained Jawaharlal Advani, member of the managing committee of the Swami Narayan Temple State Trust.
He said that they have banned the selling of fire crackers inside the temple compound in solidarity with the victims of the recent Quetta attack and the Shias who were killed in an attack at a majlis in Karachi a few days ago. The members of the trust also lit candles and oil lamps to remember the deceased and expressed their sympathies with the families who are suffering due to the attacks.
Tenth grade student Kanchan Kumari was busy making a colorful rangoli, while other children her age were lighting crackers. “We soak uncooked rice in colour for almost half an hour and then let it dry,” she said, while making the outline of a rangoli her father designed. She also explained that they make sketches with the help of chalk and then use coloured rice to make rangolis.
Kumari’s neighbour, Kumkum tells The Express Tribune that they use both colour and rice to make rangoli. “The rangoli represents happiness, colour and celebration,” she said sitting outside her house and placing oil lamps within the rangoli.
“Besides celebrating Ramchandra’s return, Diwali also marks the Dhanteras pooja, which is carried out for Lakshmi Mata,” said Kiran Dhanja, a member of the Pakistan Hindu Seva. She also said that from the 800 faces of Lakshmi Mata, one is for dhan (money) and the final day of Diwali is for the goddess.
Diwali also marks the beginning of the New Year and people visit their families, relatives and friends taking sweets and gifts with them. “We buy new clothes and celebrate Diwali as the biggest occasion, it is like our Eid,” explained Dilip Kumar, who lives in the compound with his two daughters.
The concept of lighting oil lamps is related to the return of Ram and Seeta to Ayudhya. “When Ram and Seeta came back to their home in Ayudhya, the residents of the area lit oil lamps outside their houses as a welcoming gesture for them,” said Dhanja.
Hindus visit the temple the whole night even though the prayers of Lakshmi Mata are for less than two hours, said Ramesh Maharaj, adding that people pray at home for health and wealth and come to the temple to celebrate with friends, family and their community.
Talking about the security arrangements, Mithadar SHO Syeda Ghzala, who was present at the temple, said that they have enforced strict checking at the entrance while all drivers have been asked to park their cars on roads parallel to the temple. Eighty police officers have been deployed for the security outside the temple as well.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 1st , 2016.