For the rest of Thursday don’t be shy about wishing any Hindu people you know “Happy Diwali” (the ‘w’ has a ‘v’ sound), and certainly do so if you run into Kirit Kapadia.
Diwali, which falls on 19 October this year, is otherwise known as the Festival of Lights and is a national holiday in India as well as a number of other countries, including Fiji, Sri Lanka and Malaysia in the Asia Pacific region.
“It is the important festival, just like Christmas actually,” Mr Kapadia said.
As a teenager Mr Kapadia moved to Australia with his family from the western Indian state of Gujarat in 1964. He said Diwali harks back to the triumphant return of Lord Rama from exile in the Hindu epic poem Ramayana.
“What it (Diwali) means is the triumph of light over darkness,” Mr Kapadia said.
“The triumph over evil or evil spirits or anything that is negative and turning it into a positive.”
Although Diwali is celebrated in different ways according to variations of Hinduism and local custom, Mr Kapadia said that where he grew up the whole area, including the houses, businesses and other buildings, would be lit.
Houses are decorated with a lot of colour including commemorative artwork, known as Rangoli, on the floor. At the entrance to house prayers will be made.
On the day of Diwali there are family feasts, firecrackers and lots of sweets.
“It is about creating goodwill among people, it is a family and community affair,” Mr Kapadia said.
In the tradition of Mr Kapadai’s region, the Hindu New Year is the day following Diwali and it is also the first day of that financial year, so prayers are offered for prosperity and good fortune.
“In the family tradition I follow, at our place I will being doing prayers to Laxmi, the goddess for wealth,” Mr Kapadi said.
As with the European tradition, people will greet each other with “happy new year”.
According to different customs, Diwali has festival days and nights leading up to today, which often include folk dances.
Diwali is not an official holiday in Australia, so many choose to celebrate it over the weekend that falls before or after.
As a member of the Moonee Valley Interfaith Network, Mr Kapadia is very keen to promote understanding and friendship among people of different beliefs, something that his school of Hinduism also promotes.
He encourages anyone who has a chance to go to a Diwali event or celebration to do so.
“Encourage people of other faith to go along,” Mr Kapadi said.
“There’s no restriction that you have to be Hindu.”
Image: Paul Carvill/Fickr