Diwali is also celebrated outside of India mainly in Guyana, Fiji, Malaysia, Nepal, Mauritius, Myanmar, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Trinidad & Tobago, Britain, Indonesia, Japan, Thailand, Africa, Australia and the US among the Hindus across the world.
The Indians are the second largest ethnic minority in Britain. To get rid of the feeling of missing their homeland, especially during festival times, the Indians here celebrate most of the festivals. The occasion is marked by visit to the local temple to worship the shrine of Lakshmi, which they have made for Diwali. Eating special sweets, burning of incense sticks, lighting the home and surroundings and the blowing of the conch shell follows the prayer session in the Lakshmi temple. The festival here is celebrated according to the Hindu solar calendar hence it falls in the months of October-November, amongst the cold, damp and windy months in Britain. Still the enthusiasm of the festival celebration makes the task of leaving small lamps on windowsills or by open doorways possible ignoring the chill. The lamps and diyas play their part in maintaining the atmosphere of Diwali at home.
Guyana, formerly known as British Guiana, is located on the northeast coast of South America. Guyana is 82,978 square miles in area and has a population of about 7,70,000. Hindus constitute 33% of Guyana’s total population. The Co-operative Republic of Guyana in Southern America celebrates Diwali according to the Hindu Solar calendar. The day of the festival is declared as a national holiday in the official calendar of Guyana. The tradition of celebrating the festival is believed to have been brought to Guyana in the year 1853 by the first indentured people from India. The legends related to the festival are similar to that of India. The celebration of the festival includes, distribution of sweets, illuminating the inside and outside of the house, exchange of greetings, cleaning of houses and wearing of new clothes. The celebrations hold special significance for the people of Guyana. The distribution of sweet signifies the importance of serving and sharing whereas exchange of greeting cards denotes the goodwill of each other. The sweets distributed mainly consist of pera, barfi, and kheer. The tradition of wearing new cloth for the people of Guyana is significant especially in this festival. They believe that wearing new cloth is the symbol of healthy souls in healthy bodies. Cleaning of their homes and keeping them well illuminated in and outside is a practice meant to illuminate the road for Goddess Lakshmi so that while goddess Lakshmi visits their home she faces no problem of light as the Diwali night is regarded as the darkest night of the year.
The name Indonesia came from two Greek words: “Indos” meaning Indian and “Nesos” meaning islands. The majority of population follows Islam. Hindus constituent about 2% of Indonesia’s total population. However, the Indonesian island of Bali is famous for celebrating the festival of Diwali, as a majority of the population here is that of Indians. It is one of the most revered festivals of the locals here. The celebration and rituals of the festival is mostly similar to that celebrated by their counterparts in India.
Fascinating in its diversity, Malaysia has many mesmerizing charms and attractions. With a population of about 20 million, comprising of a harmonious multi-ethnic mix of Malays, Malaysia promises a colorful potpourri of cultural traditions. Most are based on the various religious practices, beliefs and traditions influencing the costumes, festivals, ceremonies and rituals. The Hindu community of Malaysia constitutes about 8% of its total population .The community celebrates Diwali as a symbol of triumph of good over evil. The Malaysian people call Diwali as Hari Diwali. This festival is celebrated during the 7th month of the Hindu solar calendar. The south Indian traditional of oil bath precedes the festivities. The celebration includes visits to temples and prayers at household altars. Small lamps made from clay and filled with coconut oil and wicks are a common sight to signify the victory of Lord Rama, the hero of the Hindu epic Ramayana, over the demon king Ravana. Diwali is celebrated almost all over the Malaysia except in Sarawak & Federal Territory of Labuan.
Mauritius is an island in the Indian Ocean that lies to the east of Madagascar. This beautiful landmass is full of picturesque landscapes and enchanting spots. Mauritius accounts a 63% of Indian majority of which 80% follow Hinduism. Hence, celebration of almost all the Hindu festivals in this island is a common phenomenon. In Mauritius, Diwali celebration is an age-old tradition. It holds special significance for the natives, who believe that Diwali has been celebrated even long before the return of Lord Rama from 14 years of exile and his coronation as the king. The festival is marked by lightening of earthen lamps in rows making images out of the rows. Lakshmi is worshiped as the goddess of wealth and crackers are burnt to scare away evil spirits.
Nepal is a landlocked country nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas. Nepal, a multi-ethnic and multi-lingual society is the only Hindu Kingdom of the world. Diwali is celebrated here with the usual Hindu festivities and rituals. Diwali in Nepal is known as Tihar. Just like most places in India Diwali is celebrated here to honor the goddess of wealth and god of prosperity Lakshmi and Ganesh respectively. The festival of light falls in the months of October or November on the day of Amavasya – the darkest day of the year. The festival here continues for five days. Every day has its special significance. The first day is dedicated to cows as they cook rice and feed the cows believing that goddess Lakshmi comes on cows. The second day is for Dogs as the Vahana of Bhairava. Preparation of delicious food especially meant for the dog is a typical characteristic of the day. Lights and lamps are lit to illuminate the entire surrounding and some of the specialty items are prepared to mark the third day of the festival. Fireworks, Lamps and crackers are widely used. The fourth day is dedicated to Yama, the Hindu God of Death. He is prayed for long life. The fifth final day is Bhhaya Dooj dedicated for the brothers who are wished long life and prosperity by their sisters.
South Africa is located at the southern tip of the continent of Africa. It is a mix of cultures and has one of the largest immigrant Indian communities in the world. The country has almost one million immigrant Indians. Most of these Indian immigrants are concentrated in the eastern regions of Natal and Transvaal of the country. About 65% of Hindus, 15% of Muslims and 20% of Christians live in this area. Due to the majority of the Hindu population, a number of Hindu festivals are celebrated here. Diwali also holds an important place in the festival calendar of the region. The celebration is more or less same to that in India. Most of the Hindus here are from Gujarat and Tamil Nadu and continue to follow their regional variations of Hinduism.
Trinidad & Tobago
Trinidad is the most southern of the Caribbean islands, lying only seven miles off the Venezuelan coast, is one of the most exciting, colorful islands of the West Indies. Considered as the land of the Humming Bird, Trinidad and Tobago has a good number of Indian population. For that reason, Hindu festivals, customs, traditions and observances forms an integral part of the society, which comprises the unique beauty of the twin island state. The Diwali celebration has a unique flavor here in the Caribbean island nation. Here 43 per cent of the 1.3 million populations are ethnic Indians. The Diwali celebrations are usually marked as an occasion to unify the nation that consists of Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Indo-Trinidadians and Afro- Trinidadians. The festival day is regarded as a national holiday. The festival is also marked by scores of functions besides the usual rituals of the festivity. The functions and celebrations also have an official imprint as the Ministers of the Government also participate in the celebrations sometimes. The belief behind the festival is same as of India, which is, prevalence of good over evil. The celebrations continue for over a week and the headquarters of the National Council of Indian Culture at Diwali Nagar becomes the focal point.
Diwali is one of the biggest Hindu festivals celebrated among many people and communities in the United States. Many schools, community groups, Hindu associations, Indian organizations and corporate businesses get involved in celebrating Diwali. Politicians, including governors and past presidents, previously made public announcements expressing their greetings and well wishes to Hindus on Diwali. Many Indian stores sell jewelry and traditional outfits, such as chiffon saris, as well as statues of Hindu deities and incent sticks used in prayer around this time of the year. Many women and girls use mehendi, which is a temporary henna decoration, on their palms. It is also common to wear fine jewelry and silk outfits to celebrate this joyous festival.