November 9, 2007 11:20 AM   Subscribe

Diwali: the festival of light. Go ahead, light a diya (no, not that Diya) or something a bit more festive. Burn a few firecrackers, but be careful not to harm yourself. And be sure to have a taste of those mouth savouring sweets.
posted by hadjiboy (25 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I just popped a piece of burfi in my mouth.
posted by Razzle Bathbone at 11:55 AM on November 9, 2007

"I just popped a piece of burfi in my mouth."

Me too, but a couple extra-strength Gaviscon took care of the problem.
posted by Mike D at 12:01 PM on November 9, 2007

Right now I am hearing firework explosions by the University of Birmingham. It has been like a war zone here every night for the past week with Diwali and Guy Fawkes. I like it except for when idiots set them off at 2am.
posted by srboisvert at 12:04 PM on November 9, 2007

Speaking of Indian fireworks, I have really cool art book named Cock: Indian Firework Art. It's very nice.

So, why were there Diwali festivals back in October? Can someone hip me?
posted by NoMich at 12:23 PM on November 9, 2007

It's a quarter to two in the morning over here (yeah--I can't get any sleep), and the fireworks have petered down quite a bit (thankgod! they can be quite loud and obtrusive sometimes), and tomorrow the only remnants of the festival will be streets and alleyways littered with their butts. God, I love this country.

I just popped a piece of burfi in my mouth.

posted by hadjiboy at 12:28 PM on November 9, 2007

Come on baby, light my diya.
posted by papercake at 12:30 PM on November 9, 2007

So, why were there Diwali festivals back in October?

Was this last October? Diwali was celebrated in October last year. It will again be celebrated in October next year.
posted by hadjiboy at 12:37 PM on November 9, 2007

Also, enjoy not moving your car.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 12:52 PM on November 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

I actually spent part of Diwali in India in '96 being hit on by the station master at the train station in Patna. All I wanted was to catch the next train to Sikkim, but noooo, he had to take me around the Diwali exhibitions on the streets, and then ask me what the western attitudes about sex were. He actually cried when I told him that was an inappropriate question and that I just wanted to catch my train.

Unfortunately, that memory makes it hard to contribute to a conversation about Diwali, because I can't remember anything except "How did I get into this mess? And how do I get out of it?"

I think there were fireworks or something.
posted by rouftop at 12:53 PM on November 9, 2007



Not that a reminder is bad. It's a fun holiday.
posted by elendil71 at 1:02 PM on November 9, 2007

Ahhh, so that's how it's done.:)
Thanks for those links elendil!

Some lovely stuff to read there for sure, I wish I'd thought of including it in my post too.
posted by hadjiboy at 1:18 PM on November 9, 2007

This diwali story has had me awwwwww-ing since yesterday.
posted by jamesonandwater at 1:42 PM on November 9, 2007

...don't invite any zombies...
posted by pokermonk at 5:16 PM on November 9, 2007

happy Diwali! : >

(little thing about Diwali here in NYC--it's finally become an "alternate-side-of-the-street-parking" holiday according the the city--which means it's really official and bigtime now--way overdue.)
posted by amberglow at 5:25 PM on November 9, 2007

Also, enjoy not moving your car.

Oops--i was beaten to it--sorry These Premises)
posted by amberglow at 5:27 PM on November 9, 2007

from his link: ... Council members describe this habit of theirs as a way to honor new communities in an ever-changing city. That’s how a group knows it has made it here. We keep the streets dirty in its name.

But it is perhaps worth noting that the line between an official honor and a political pander is a fine one. A lot depends on who has muscle. ...
(and St. Patrick's Day still isn't honored)
posted by amberglow at 5:29 PM on November 9, 2007

So, why were there Diwali festivals back in October?
Glad you asked! It's simple, really; Diwali is the eighth new-moon ('amaavasya') in the Indian lunisolar calendar.

Unfortunately, that's the only thing simple about Deepavali. You see, India has a lot of calendars going about in different parts of the country; deep south, for instance, in Tamil Nadu, they use a solar calendar, while their neighbouring state, Kerala, still uses a solar calendar, but with different months / start of the year/ eras etc. It's a huge mess, a mess that's further complicated when you realize that each of these calendars is actually connected with each other. You can't, for instance, produce a Tamil calendar without producing a Telugu one. There's a reason why the Indian calendar is computationally the most complex one in the world.

So yes, long story short, in the Kali-Era-reckoning, southern Amanta lunisolar calendar, the last day of the seventh lunisolar month is the last day of the Deepavali festival. One day before that is Narakachaturdasi, the morning of that day when Lord Krishna's consort, Satyabhama, vanquished the evil lord, Narakasura. This she did on the outskirts of his capital, Pragjyotishapuram, ('The City of Half-Lit Lights', for the darkness that engulfed it during Narakasura's reign), an ancient urban metropolis on the east of the country which we now know as Guwahati. Krishna's kingdom, in comparison, was Dwaraka, on the extreme west of the country, a distance that is best seen in this map. Could have taken at least day for the news to travel from part of the country to another, is what I'm sayin'.

Cultural complications aside, your question was about calendar difficulties. Why does Diwali fall on different Gregorian dates every year? Quite simple, really; for the same reason why Muslim and Chinese festivals fall on different Gregorian dates. A Gregorian year is 365 days, while a lunar year is 354 days, a shortfall of about 11 days on a year-on-year basis. You can see this (approximately though, for some additional rules regarding the Eid-ka-Chand that would be confusing to describe now) rather distinctly in Muslim festivals, for instance, such as Eid-ul-Fitr; the festival always jumps ahead by approximately 11 days every consecutive year.

Chinese and Indian calendars, though, have an additional rule; they're lunisolar calendars. Because they have been traditionally used for agriculture, among other things, a direct correlation between months and seasons is rather crucial. Which is why, they don't "slip" by more than a month; every 2.5 years, you get an additional leap-month ('adhika maasam') added to the calendars. There was an adhika maasam this year; which is why some festivals, for instance, were actually celebrated twice. Also, Deepavali jumped back to November. (You can compare year-on-year dates for Indian festivals here.)

Now you know!
posted by the cydonian at 7:03 PM on November 9, 2007 [2 favorites]

Oh feash, forgot to post another point here.
Another interesting point that is quite apparent here in South East Asia, but may not be apparent for you folk elsewhere. You see, in Singapore and Malaysia, Deepavali was on Thursday, and not Friday, like it was celebrated in India. The reason is this: Deepavali is 'defined' according to a lunar date, while it's celebrated on a solar-day.
Because there’s often no one-to-one correlation between solar (’dinamu’) and lunisolar days (’tidhi’), there’s this usual confusion as to which solar-day a lunisolar-festival is. For example, this year, amaavaasya 'started' late on Thursday night. Which is why a lot of folk (Singapore and Malaysia) celebrated it on Thursday.
However, I’d say it’s an easier reckoning if you stick to what tidhi occurs at dawn (forgot the exact Sanskrit appellation for that, aparaahaNa vELa?). I find it easier coz I would find it weird to state a certain tidhi at the morning prayers (’sandhya vandanam’) and then proceed to celebrate quite another tidhi. Presumably, a lot of folk in India would agree.
(There's been a lot of grief on standardizing schools-of-thought across the country. We've had two calendar-reform-committees, at least two new completely new calendars and two different almanacs, with a variance of a couple of hours between them. Tradition, apparently, has a stronger hold on people than pragmaticism.)
posted by the cydonian at 7:13 PM on November 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

HEY! Why did my paragraph breaks vanish?!
posted by the cydonian at 7:17 PM on November 9, 2007

the cydonian: Awesome. Thanks.
posted by spaceman_spiff at 7:40 PM on November 9, 2007

Happy Deepavali cydonian, and your observations are much appreciated as always!
posted by hadjiboy at 8:27 PM on November 9, 2007

our Jewish holidays are lunisolar too--all the best religions are.
; >
posted by amberglow at 2:34 PM on November 10, 2007

(oh, this says that the Muslim calendar doesn't add leap months to compensate for the drift--is that so? They don't have harvest festivals and stuff that has to stay within a certain season?)
posted by amberglow at 2:39 PM on November 10, 2007

Amberglow: Oh yes, the Hebrew calendar is lunisolar, indeed, has one of the the cleanest leap-month implementations there is out there. Also, if you notice, the (Indian) Amanta lunisolar calendar, the Chinese calendar and the Hebrew calendar share the same way of reckoning months; a month is the time-period between two consecutive new moons. Just that, if I'm not wrong, the Chinese month starts on a new-moon like the Hebrew calendar, while the Amanta month ends with a new-moon.

I didn't explicitly state it of course, but yes, I meant to say that the Islamic calendar doesn't add leap-months as such. I believe it doesn't mostly for what I'd call as civilizational reasons; you don't really need a reason for, say, Eid-ul-Fitr to occur in the same season as such. Harvest festivals such as Sankranti or the Mid-Autumn Festival, on the other hand, must, otherwise your harvest cycle is foo-bared up.
posted by the cydonian at 8:52 PM on November 10, 2007 [1 favorite]

ahhh...but then even things like Mohammed's bday fall at completely different times of year? That's weird.
posted by amberglow at 10:25 AM on November 11, 2007

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