The Essence of an Indian Woman—Celebrating Diwali in a Sari

Diwali, the festival of lights is more than just an occasion to celebrate light and prosperity, it’s also the time for celebrating the vibrant cultural milieu India brings forth. Among the most beautiful and timeless customs that are involved with Diwali is wearing a sari. The sari is not merely an attire but a reflection of the Indian soul.

This harvest festival is observed for five days with each day special and unique on its own. The excitement and preparation for Diwali especially among women is just splendid. From buying Jewellery on the Dhanteras to lighting diyas and shopping for amazing and flamboyant sarees and clothes for the entire family, Diwali is a grand celebration with traditional nuances and flair.

Before the celebrations of Diwali, there are various traditions and preparations that go forth.

  1. House Cleaning

In the North and South India, there is an age-old adage of cleaning one’s home before Diwali. In south India its termed as “aadi”. This is to fortify the belief that goddess Lakshmi comes into one’s home only if its clean. So, decluttering the home is a norm that is followed. 

  • Shopping

‘The women of the homes’ go shopping long before Diwali as it’s a norm to wear new clothes on the day of celebrations. The excitement for the festivity just increases amongst women of all ages as they get ready to steal the show with their sarees.

  • Arranging diyas

The diyas, or small clay lamps are to be arranged on the previous day of Diwali to be lit on the occasion. It’s a tradition that 21 diyas need to be lit for prosperity, happiness and all the positivity to the home and all of the family.

The lighting of oil lamps (diyas) and candles symbolizes the victory of light over darkness and the triumph of good over evil.

On the day of Diwali, women wake up in the morning and arrange puja thalis (puja plates) with red vermillion powder, flowers, sarees, sweets and diyas. The essence of sari is and has been an integral part of Indian culture for centuries. This simple fabric is draped in different styles by women all across India as they transform themselves into a canvas of cultural expression. As there are different types of sarees, women get to choose form wide array of options. Like Banarasi silk sari, Kancheevaram silk sari from Tamilnadu or even Bandani sari from Gujarat.

The draping of sari in itself is an art. There are many regional styles of draping. But the most common style is the Nivi drape. This is characterized by the pleats in the front and the pallu which is the loose end draped all over the shoulder. You can start by wearing the blouse and a petticoat ( pavada/in-skirt ) that is secured around your waist. The non-pallu side of the saree, usually the non-decorative one is then tucked into the petticoat at the right side of your waist. Keep tucking it tightly. You can now use the remaining fabric or the loose end of the sari and create the first pleat by folding it towards your right. A pleat could be roughly 5-6 inches wide.  Tuck in the pleats too and now you can make pleats until you reach the end of the sari. Just secure them with safety pins and then drape your pallu over your left shoulder so it hangs gracefully. There you have it. Now you can adorn yourself with accessories and enjoy Diwali.

Once everybody is dressed up, puja aarti starts. As Diwali is a time for religious and spiritual reflection, families visit temples to offer prayers to deities like Lord Rama, Goddess Lakshmi (the goddess of wealth and prosperity), Lord Ganesha (the remover of obstacles), and others. Many also perform Lakshmi Puja (a special prayer to Goddess Lakshmi) at home to seek her blessings for wealth and prosperity.

The festive spirit is further tagged along with the creation of rangoli. These are colorful artwork that are made with rice powder and comes in so many different colours. All the uncles, aunts, children, grandparents are all involved in the rangoli decoration, bringing the whole family together. 

Further along family exchanges gifts like sweets, dry fruits, and other gifts as a gesture of love and goodwill. There is also an assortment of fun & games like cards that are played by the elders. It is believed that winning in cards game during Diwali brings in luck and prosperity. Fireworks and firecrackers are also an integral part of Diwali celebrations. The bright and colorful displays light up the night sky, adds to the festive atmosphere.

India as a country has always celebrated rich culture and traditions. Sari is an embodiment of grace that women of India uphold. Women dress up in traditional sari attires for many festivals like Diwali, Onam, Pongal. How a woman drapes a sari and which sari she chooses is totally her individual choice. But one thing is for sure, these six meters of fabric is a beautiful adornment to our country. 

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