Diwali is a famous festival of India that is fast becoming popular in Canada. It’s a festival of lights and occurs more or less around the time when Halloween is celebrated in the Western world. Surrealistically, both the festivals are connected to the existence of spirits; Diwali is celebrating of victory over spirits, whereas Halloween is honoring the spirits themselves.
During Diwali, sweets are distributed and new costumes are worn. Halloween too is celebrated with special costumes and candies or sweets are collected by children. Diwali can, thus, be safely called as Indian Halloween. Or maybe we can call them both together as “Diwalleen”?
Diwali: Commemorating victory over spirits
Diwali, also called ‘Deepavali’, literally means ‘the festival of lights’. It celebrates victory over evil. Though they are various legends about Diwali, Lord Rama’s victory over the demon king Ravana and his triumphant return to his capital Ayodhya is considered as the theme of Diwali.
Diwali is also celebrated as Kali Puja in northeast parts of India, especially in Bengal. It is observed on the new moon day night between October and November. Goddess Kali, who holds control over evil spirits is worshipped on this day with several rituals.
The similarity is so much, that for Kali Puja, models of ghosts, ghouls, skeletons and monsters actually adorn the temporary structures where the Goddess Kali is worshipped. The dark-skinned goddess herself wears a garland of skeleton heads and carries a severed head in one of her four hands.
Halloween: Honoring of spirits
Halloween, celebrated on October 31 also has connection with spirits and life after death. The Christians celebrate All Saints Day on November 1 and All Souls Day on November 2. This has much influence over the Halloween Day which literally means ‘All Hallows Evening’. ‘Hallows’ means departed souls or saints. Halloween Day is observed with scary costumes of supernatural figures such as devils, monsters, ghosts, skeletons, and witches, honoring the dead. However, the similarities are very striking and enjoyable.
Both the festivals occur around end of October, beginning of November when souls of dead people are believed to visit the earth. Typical Halloween activities include trick-or-treating (also known as ‘guising’), attending costume parties, carving pumpkins into jack-o’-lanterns, lighting bonfires, apple bobbing, visiting haunted attractions, playing pranks, telling scary stories, and watching horror films.
For Diwali, children burst crackers and adults light ‘diyas’ or clay lamps and candles to ward off evil spirits. In fact, candles are lit for Halloween too, mostly inside carved pumpkins. Both Diwali and Halloween are festivals of sweets for children. New clothes are worn in both the festivals. For Diwali, new clothes such as ‘ghagras’, ‘salwar-kameezes’, saris, and other Indian dresses are worn.
For Halloween, children and adults wear scary costumes of supernatural figures such a devils, monsters, ghosts, skeletons and ghouls. The ghastly and ghostly apparition of both the festival queerly ends in a celebratory mood for everyone, and eerily connects both East and West.
(Published in CanIndia News, Oct 26, 2012.)