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Festival of lights gets fresh fervour as COVID-19 restrictions ease

3 Nov 2021

Muscat – Last year, Indian families across Oman sat despondently at home in view of the pandemic, even during this time of the year when most Indians celebrate the festival of lights – Diwali.

The festival is something every Indian looks forward to – for its delicious sweets, colourful rangolis and the excited joyfulness that surrounds the festival altogether.

Rangoli is an art form in which patterns are created on the floor using materials such as powdered lime stone, dry rice flour among others.

Vaishali Prashant Bafna, a Guinness World Record holder for crochet, and someone with a huge passion for creating extravagant rangolis, has been excitedly gearing up for this year’s Diwali, as most of her friends and family have been vaccinated.

When asked about what Diwali means to her, she says that Diwali is not what it used to be. “Earlier, it used to be less about the decorations and more about the actual celebration. Now, it has become more of a commercial event.”

Talking about her passion rangoli, she said that the original, and most traditional way to make rangoli is to use dry rice flour, but now out of convenience, people get ready-made Rangoli powder from Indian stores.

Vaishali usually makes a huge one in her building’s corridor either the day before Diwali, or on the day itself, and it usually takes her about 2-3 hours to complete. Sometimes, she uses a stencil to map out the design, and for even more precision, she uses a Rangoli pen.

“While making smaller ones, I usually map it out by hand and it takes less than an hour. Things have become much easier now compared to when I was younger.”

Vaishali also makes flower rangolis, which take quite a long time to complete as she has to keep in mind the colour and shape of the flower while designing the rangoli. “If someone wants to make the process easier, they could buy acrylic or ply rangolis, as those are pre-made designs, and can just be placed on the floor.”

When asked about Diwali in 2020 and now, she said that the main difference is the people. “The way Diwali is celebrated is by handing out sweets and snacks to neighbours, families and friends – the joy of celebrating Diwali is spread around as much as possible. In 2020, people celebrating Diwali all sat at home with their hands clasped, with no real celebrations outside of the main puja (prayer). Usually, wings of the Indian Social Club, like the Gujarati wing, the Karnataka wing – also hold Diwali celebrations. That could not take place last year.”

This year, with most of her family and friends getting vaccinated, she hopes to at least hold small-scale celebrations and distribute sweets among neighbours.

To celebrate Diwali this year, Vaishali says her family and friends are planning a small party, maybe with a few games and stories told around the table, but nothing too large-scale. “The pandemic is still ongoing. We want to stay as cautious as we can.”

(Contributed by Rianna Lobo)

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