As a Russian native, I’ve always been fascinated by different cultures and traditions, but nothing could have prepared me for the enchanting experience I had in India during Diwali. It was an absolute delight to be introduced to this spectacular festival, I felt like I had entered a world of lights, colours, and tradition that was unlike anything I witnessed before.
Bustling streets in India were brightly lit, each and every building adorned in electric cascade of lights, every house I entered had many candles and oil lamps it was as if the entire country was preparing for a grand celebration. The houses, streets, and public buildings were adorned with countless diyas, creating a mesmerising tapestry of light.
The air was filled with excitement and anticipation, and every corner I turned; I could see the vibrant decorations, twinkling lights, and rangoli adorning the doorsteps. The atmosphere was electric, I can compare it with the atmosphere before the New Year at my country when everyone is happy in anticipation on the verge of some miracle entering into one’s live and I couldn’t help but feel the infectious enthusiasm.
One of the first things that struck me was the profound cultural significance of Diwali. Often referred to as the Festival of Lights, it represents the victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance. Diwali is celebrated for different reasons across India, but the underlying theme of celebrating positivity and the triumph of light is universal.
The symbolism of Diwali, with its various rituals and customs, was truly captivating. The lighting of diyas not only illuminates homes but also symbolises the dispelling of darkness from one’s life.
I got a stunning saree for myself and was thrilled to be part of the festivities, dressed in the same bright and beautiful hues like everyone around me. I put on artificial ethnic jewellery and joined the celebrations. And what did I enjoy most? Burning crackers like a child! The number and variety of crackers in India is unbelievable, most of them I had never seen before: in the shape of triangle, round ones, jumping, rotating, flying, with the loud noise and hissing. One of the most exciting aspects of Diwali is undoubtedly the bursting of ‘phatakas.’ I joined in the revelry, lighting sparklers and watching as the night sky lit up with dazzling fireworks. It was a sensory overload, with colours and sounds that were both thrilling and magical. I couldn’t help but feel like a kid again, marveling at the beauty and splendor of the fireworks. No wonder it’s the mostly awaited activity by all children.
But Diwali isn’t just about the visual spectacle. It’s also a time for giving and receiving, and one of the sweetest traditions is the exchange of mithai, traditional Indian sweets. All of the sweets I tasted for the first time. Jalebi and besan ke laddoo became my favourite ever since. But variety of sweets are so many that I don’t know names of all even 20 years later and there are still many I haven’t even tried. I was delighted to receive boxes of delectable treats, each with its own unique flavour and texture. Gifting mithai is a symbol of sharing happiness and spreading the sweetness of life, and it’s a tradition that truly touched my heart. Now I also gift mithai boxes for Diwali.
Diwali also presents a fantastic opportunity for fashion enthusiasts. All clothing stores were bustling with customers, people shopped for new outfits to wear during the festival. It’s a time when vibrant and colourful clothing is not just a preference but a tradition. Shopping is immense during this festive season. People are buying gifts for each other, stores are offering great deals and discounts, I felt like the whole country was out for shopping on the eve of the grand celebrations.
One of the most heartwarming aspects of Diwali is the emphasis on family and friends. I was fortunate to be invited to celebrate Diwali with the Indian family, and the experience was heart melting: the warmth, love, and unity brought so much connection to all of us. The family members exchanged gifts; the amount of delicious food was palpable, stories, laughter and good mood. It was a reminder of the importance of togetherness and the joy of being with loved ones during this special time.
Diwali is more than a festival; it’s a celebration of life itself. It’s a time to cast aside darkness and embrace the light within and around us. It’s a time for joy, for reflection, for sharing, and for bonding. As a Russian in India, my first Diwali was a magical journey into the heart of Indian culture and traditions, and it’s an experience that stayed with me till today, the first impression of deeply rooted and righteously observed traditions. Diwali truly embodies the essence of India, where diversity, unity, and the triumph of light over darkness come together in a cheerful and unforgettable celebration.
Indian culture is widely spread around the world beyond India. I celebrated Diwali in Russia and Canada, Dubai and Singapore. And I had witnessed different performances during this season. Artists from different countries learn about Indian festivals, mythology, engage in dancing singing and theater. For this Diwali an international troupe will present the play «Disha Ramlila» at the invitation of the Ayodhya Research Institute (Ayodhya Shodh Sansthan), Russian-Indian Friendship Society («DISHA») in memory as part of the Deepotsava (Diwali) celebration at Ayodhya. Artists from different countries are invited to the Deepotsava festival. They will perform Ram Leela glorifying the Indian mythological saga dedicated to Lord Rama Gennady Mikhailovich Pechnikov (Soviet Russian actor, theater director and public figure), popularly known as «Russian-Rama», staged «Ram Leela» for almost 20 years, repeatedly came to India on tour and was awarded the highest awards, including the medal Bal Mitra and the Padma Shri.
Russian-Indian Friendship Society («DISHA»), after almost forty years, revived the production of the play «DISHA Ram Leela» in memory of Pechnikov and in honour of Russian-Indian friendship.
In November 2023, the Russian-Indian Friendship Society («DISHA») will continue to represent Russia at Deepotsava, dedicated to the triumphant return of Lord Rama to his hometown of Ayodhya. I’m also all set to celebrate this festival of lights again this year.