- In many lands, there is a festival of thanksgiving for a good harvest. Diwali is of this nature.
- Dancing and music, both men and children take part.
- The procession, the taken out is offered of God in gratitude.
- The foodstuffs are given to the poor.
Practically every nation has inherited from its early days the custom of thanking God for the fruits of the earth. Part of the harvest is offered to God as a symbol of gratitude. So with Diwali. On the eight days of the new year, a procession and festival was held in our village. The crops had been good the banias had closed their account book and opened new ledgers. Everybody rose early on that day.
The women had plastered cow-dung on the verandahs and painted the thresholds of their houses bright rod, with a sprinkling of rice here and there. The children were washed and dressed more carefully than usual, given their holiday garments with strict injunctions to keep them clean. At an early hour, the men of the village commenced to assemble round the big banayan tree where the village well is. Already the sound of tabors and pungas penetrated the sleepy houses, and dancers had commenced with a few preliminary steps. I. have a book in which is a poem called L’Allegro by Milton. He described the village of England having a festival to the music of the “jocund flutes and inviting all to dance:
“Come and trip it as you go
On the light fantastic toe.”
Almost the whole of this poem could have been written as a description of our Divali celebrations.
Then a procession was formed and made its way through the streets to the temple of the God Krishna. The dancers worked themselves to their highest pitch, circuling and leaping about with amazing agility and endurance. The musician blew on their pungas, banged their cymbals as if trying to see which could produce the greatest noise. Dust filled the air and settled on the performers, but no one cared.
Then a halt was made, but the performers continued to dance and play till about noon. Then the bells were rung and all were admitted to the temple. The scene reached the limit of wild an enthusiasm, and the prayers were loudly chanted on every side. The priests controlled the emotions and calmed the people down.
After a while was the distribution of good. The part of the crops devoted to celebration had been turned into cakes and other foodstuffs, and was now offered to God. God received the thanks of His people. All the food was divided between the worshippers, who ate it and rejoiced in their purification, their release from the burden of sins.
The groups wending their way home were quiet and subdued in comparison with the former noisy procession. At home special sweetmeats were the order of the day and the holiday feeling continued in the air. Lamps were lighted all over the village as the darkened, but the greatest light was in the hearts of the village people, for one day taken away from the toil and routine of their hard lives.