Diwali in Dubai

Tucked away in a narrow lane, between the Dubai Creek and the Grand Mosque, lies one of Dubai’s hidden gems - ‘Hindi Lane’ – home to the only Hindu temples in Dubai

As the climax for the biggest festival in the Indian Hindu calendar, Diwali, arrived this October, a little bustling lane became the hub of  excited activities for Dubai’s huge Indian community.

In the days before Diwali, every Hindu in Dubai, even the not-so-devout, will ake the trip to this lane or the adjoining streets of Meena Bazaar. From special prayers to be offered at the temples to stocking up on all that’s integral to celebrating Diwali: Flowers, lights, incense sticks, and of course the special earthen lamps or ‘Diyas’ that brighten up every Indian home through the festival. It is the festival of lights after all. For Hindus across the world, the festival of Diwali symbolizes good over evil.

'Dhanteras’ is a day on which most Hindus believe that buying gold or silver will bring them good fortune

Dubai has historically grown as a trading city, and over the years has attracted a huge community of traders and entrepreneurs from Western India. To them, Diwali signifies a new year and new beginnings. In fact, it is believed to be one of the most auspicious days to begin a new venture.

Most Hindu entrepreneurs and traders in Dubai have a special Diwali prayer ceremony not just at home, but even at their workplace. “My husband is a diamond trader and has special prayers at the office on Diwali. Then we have a similar ceremony at home in the evening praying to Laxmi (the Goddess of Prosperity),” said Minal Shah, a media professional.

And then there’s the tradition that leaves most non-Indians confounded - shopping for gold!

Two days before Diwali is the festival of ‘Dhanteras,’ a day on which most Hindus believe it is auspicious to buy gold or silver. Most gold stores in Dubai have already launched a new ‘Diwali collection’ to bring in more customers. Avani Desai, a writer, explains this custom better: “It’s a tradition now, to buy some precious metal on Dhanteras. We believe if we buy something on this day, we will not see any financial troubles through the year.”

The eating of sweets has also become a tradition in the festival

Not surprisingly, gold sales always peak during this season, rivaled only by the sale of Sweets. For which Indian can even think of Diwali without gorging on the sheer variety of traditional sweets on sale during Diwali. In fact, many Indians would take offence if you visited them but left without eating some sweets.

Celebrating Diwali has many facets to it – from the religious to the socio-cultural. For the Indian community it is a time to come together and celebrate with the family. In a melting pot like Dubai, it also means celebrating with communities from across the world. Agnes Pierre, a microbiologist who moved to Dubai just six months back is very excited about her first Diwali. “I plan to go to the Meena Bazaar to see the lights and have also been invited to an Indian friend’s house for a traditional Diwali dinner.”

For that, is the true essence of Diwali – family and friends coming together to celebrate new, prosperous beginnings.