Diwali, a festival of lights, is the most celebrated Hindu festival across India, much like Christmas in the western world.
Diwali commemorates the return of Lord Rama to his kingdom, Ayodhya, after an exile period of fourteen years. The people of Ayodhya lit the city brightly and welcomed Rama, his brother Lakshman, and his wife Sita with firecrackers.
In order to invite and welcome the Hindu Goddess Lakshmi into their homes, people light clay lamps called ‘diyas.’ Her arrival signifies the arrival of prosperity. The Goddess Lakshmi and Lord Ganesha are worshiped on this day as they are believed to bring good luck, prosperity, and wealth.
There are several other stories behind Diwali, and these vary across India’s diverse regions and ethnicities. However, all of these stories share a common thread: they celebrate the innate goodness in everyone, as well as the victory of good over evil. People dress up in festive traditional garb, light diyas inside and outside their homes, participate in prayers, light fireworks, and exchange gifts. They also get together with friends and family and feast on Indian food and mithai (Indian sweets).
Diwali is celebrated over five days, and each day has its own significance:
The first day (October 25 of this year) is known as Dhanteras, and it is dedicated to prosperity. Goddess Lakshmi is worshipped on this day, and the custom is to purchase something precious, traditionally something made out of gold.
The second day (October 26) is known as Naraka Chaturdasi, or Chhoti Diwali (small Diwali). Goddess Kali and Lord Krishna are believed to have destroyed the demon Narakasura on this day. Demon effigies are burned in celebration.
The third day (October 27) is known as Amavasya. This day is the new moon, and thus the darkest day of the month. In northern and western India, it is the most significant day of the Diwali festival. Lakshmi is worshiped on this day, with a special puja performed in the evening.
The fourth day (October 28) has varying significance across India. In north India, Govardhan Puja is celebrated as the day when Lord Krishna defeated Indra, the god of thunder and rain. In Gujarat, it’s celebrated as the start of a new year. In Maharashtra, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, the victory of Lord Vishnu over the demon king Bali is celebrated as Bali Pratipada or Bali Padyami.
The fifth day (October 29) is known as Bhai Duj. It is dedicated to celebrating sisters, in a similar way that Raksha Bandhan is dedicated to appreciating brothers. Brothers and sisters get together and share treats in order to honor the bond between them.
Below are some of my favorite plant-based treat and sweet recipes, to help you celebrate this Diwali with your friends and family.
From my home to your home, wishing you a happy and prosperous Diwali and Happy New Year!
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the cashews and cook until lightly golden, about 2 minutes. Add the raisins and pistachios and cook until the raisins swell up, about 1 to 2 minutes.
Add the grated carrots to the skillet and cook them for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the ground cashews and cashew milk and mix well. Reduce the heat to low-medium and cook for 15-20 minutes.
Add coconut sugar, vegan butter, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom and saffron, mixing well. Cook for another 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally until all of the cashew milk has almost been absorbed.
Serve warm or chilled.
*Soak 1 cup raw cashews in hot water for 15 minutes (cashews can be soaked in room temperature water for two hours or overnight as well – whatever works for your schedule). Drain and rinse. Add cashews to the blender with 3 cups of water. Blend starting on low speed and increasing to high until smooth and frothy, about 40 seconds. Store in a lidded container for up to three days.
Coconut Whipped Cream
In a large bowl, mix vegan cream cheese, powdered sugar, and vanilla with a handheld mixer until creamy. Set aside.
In another large bowl, whip coconut cream and gum until stiff, then carefully fold in vegan cream cheese.
Chill for at least 30 minutes before using, as it will firm up a bit.
Prepare 4 tall glasses- add a few scoops of the vegan carrot halwa mixture and press it down a little, top with ground pistachios and with coconut frosting. Repeat until the glasses are full.
The carrot halwa trifle must be stored in the refrigerator and will stay good for 3-4 days.