Diwali, or Festival of Lights, fell on Friday, November 5 this year. The holiday, which gets its name from a contraction of the words Deepa meaning Light and Awali meaning Row, is often celebrated by lighting small lamps or candles to be placed around the home. In preparation for the Hindu festival (this is also celebrated by Sikhs for a different reason), the children and staff at Sooch Village celebrated a pre-Diwali ceremony with our October 2010 travel ambassadors last week filled with prayers, the lighting of cottages, a shared meal with all children and Ambassadors eating together in the prayer hall, and a special dance performed by the children. TMF Ambassador Shelley Seale shared the highlights of the evening’s events with us:
After dark, around 5:30 pm, we all gathered together to light the small Diwali oil lamps. The children lined our trays with 19 small clay pots filled with oil and then lit them. Each volunteer took a tray to a cottage, placing several lamps at the front step of the home, and taking the rest up to the roof. There, we lined the oil lamps along the front of the roofline, creating a beautiful illuminated display around the entire village.
After the Diwali lamps were placed in all the cottages, we gathered at the Prayer Hall. A special Diwali prayer was held, after which Jasdeep thanked all of the volunteers and the Sooch Village staff, and reported the fabulous results of the volunteer medical trip. Barbara then presented each volunteer with our own Miracle Foundation Ambassador pins.
Once this was over, the special dance performance began. First, a group of about 10 costumed girls took the stage, all holding a small, lit oil lamp in each hand. They performed a beautiful, traditional dance for us. Next, three girls and three boys in colorful costumes of pink, blue and yellow performed a lively synchronized dance. Last, one young man did his own more hip-hop dance for us, creating some inadvertent comedy when he at first forgot the moves. But he recuperated quickly enough and put on an energetic performance. After that, everyone was invited to dance.
After the dancing, a special Diwali dinner was held in the prayer hall, so that volunteers, staff and children alike could eat together.
It was a wonderful celebration of the Festival of Lights, and a fantastic ending to our volunteer trip.
Many Hindus find this five-day long festival to be one of the most important holidays of the year as it signifies the awakening of Atman. Atman, our inner light, brings peace and joy into our lives as it outshines the darkness of ignorance. The holiday is often accompanied by colorful fireworks and the exchange of delicious sweets and dried fruit among family members and loved ones, making it a favorite of our children.
The Miracle Foundation wishes you all an enlightened Diwali. Spend time with your family bonding over the traditional dessert Badam Phiram. Our children enjoyed this on at the pre-Diwali celebration. A recipe from iloveindia.com appears below:
• 12 nos. Almonds
• 4 tablespoons Rice flour
• 21/2 cups Milk
• 5 tablespoons Sugar
• 8 strands Saffron
• 1 teaspoon Cardamom powder
• Grind the almonds to a fine paste with 1/2-cup milk. Mix together the ground almond paste and rice flour and keep aside.
• Bring the milk to a boil. Add the sugar and stir until dissolved. Keep aside a tablespoon of hot milk and dissolve the saffron in it. Add the almond-rice mixture into the boiling milk along with the saffron.
• Stir continuously for a few minutes until the milk thickens and attains a custard-like consistency. Sprinkle in the cardamom powder. Take off fire and cool to room temperature.
• Pour into individual bowls, garnish with almonds and pistachios and refrigerate.