The Indian Community Association in Egypt (ICAE) is holding its annual “Festival of Lights” on Friday, 12 November. The event, which will take place in the Mena House Hotel next to the Giza Pyramids, is meant to celebrate the beginning of the five-day Diwali festival, one of the most important traditions associated with India's three main religions: Hinduism, Jainism and Sikhism.
“Diwali is the easy-to-pronounce form of Deepavali,” says Madhu Ram, event organizer and ICAE member. “In Sanskrit, Deepawali is the marriage of two Sanskrit words: Deepa, meaning 'light,' and Avali, meaning 'row'.”
True to its name, the festival uses rows of lights in the form of beautiful candles to bring joy to festival participants. “Indeed, celebrating the rows of lights is one of Diwali’s main attractions,” Ram says. “Every home–from the huts of the poor to the mansions of the rich–are aglow with the orange light of twinkling diyas (lights).”
Diyas form the basis of the festival. They are small clay lamps filled with oil to signify the triumph of good over evil. During Diwali, celebrants wear new clothes and share sweets and snacks with family members and friends.
“This Diwali festival is thought to date back to that period when history was not written. Through the centuries, it has lit the path of thousands to attain the ultimate good and complete ecstasy,” Ram explains.
According to Ram, the small earthen lamps are lit to welcome Lakshmi, goddess of wealth and prosperity. Multi-colored Rangoli designs, floral decorations and fireworks lend vivid, colorful imagery and grandeur to this festival, which heralds joy, mirth and happiness in the coming year.
This festival is celebrated on a grand scale in almost all regions of India, and is looked upon in some parts of the country as the beginning of the financial year. “Those who believe Diwali begins a new financial year tidy up their accounts and are much more apt to hold grand pujas (offerings) and devotional displays for the goddess Lakshmi,” Ram added.
Every year, ICAE members celebrate the festival of lights in Cairo, attracting a large crowd of visiting Indians who congregate to enjoy the dancing, music and food.
This year, the ICAE is flying in a group of Indian singers, including Kaushik Deshpandey, Jankee Parekh, Harshid Chauhan and Ananya Bhowmik.
Tickets prices, which range from LE250 to LE350, include a lavish Indian dinner and entertainment.
Finally, Ram points out that even countries such as Kenya, Thailand, Trinidad, Siam and Malaya celebrate the festival–albeit in their own way.
“Diwali is very enthusiastically celebrated for five continuous days,” Ram says. “And each day has its particular significance, being associated with a number of myths, legends and beliefs.”
You can find more information about this year's festival in Cairo on this Facebook page.