Today marks the first day of Diwali, one of the most important festivals in Indian culture. Many of the almost half a million Indian Australians recorded on the last census will be celebrating for the next five days, and there’s a very good reason for their excitement: mithai (Hindi for sweets).
Diwali, meaning ‘row of lighted lamps’, is celebrated around the world by Hindus, Jains and Sikhs. Extravagant firework displays light up whole cities, and oil lamps are ceremonially lit in homes; all symbolic of light’s triumph over dark and good over evil.
While prayers and other ceremonies are an important traditional part of the festival, it’s the just-as-traditional sweet treats that make Diwali such a beloved festival the world over.
During Diwali, mithai are everywhere. Families and friends gift them to each other, serve them at parties and hand them out to neighbours. They’re served between, before, during and after meals, and are available in hundreds of flavours, shapes, colours and sizes.
Shops are packed with piles of ladoo (balls of flour, milk and sugar), cham cham/chomchom (a sweet dough torpedo flavoured with lemon juice or saffron), halwa (a candy often made with semolina) and barfi (a flavoured combination of condensed milk and sugar), many of which have been hand-made in the weeks leading up to the festival.
In homes, generations gather for the month leading up to the festival to make the traditional snacks of their family and village, some shaped to look like fruits, others like precious jewels.
So, for the next five days, celebrate evil being defeated by grabbing a few sweet treats and sharing them with friends. And have a happy, safe and delicious Diwali!
Tristan Lutze is a food writer, photographer and stylist based in Sydney, Australia. Originally from Melbourne, Tristan is rarely not thinking about, talking about, playing with, looking at or eating food. He shares a home with two cats and an overworked deep fryer. Follow him on Instagram @tristancooksandeats