The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) recently announced it will commemorate the joyous Hindu festival of Diwali with a Forever stamp this Oct. 5 in a first-day-of-issue dedication ceremony at the Consulate General of India in New York City.
The stamp’s design uses a photograph depicting a traditional diya oil lamp lit and sitting on a sparkling gold background. Diya lamps are usually made from clay with cotton wicks dipped in a clarified butter known as “ghee” or in vegetable oils.
Also known as Deepavali, Diwali celebrates the triumph of good over evil. Spanning five days each autumn, it is considered by some to be the start of the new year.
On the Hindu calendar, Diwali falls on the eve of or on the new moon that occurs between mid-October and mid-November. In 2016, the main day of the festival will be celebrated Oct. 29 for South Indians and Oct. 30 for North Indians.
Diwali is a shortened version of the Sanskrit word Deepavali, which roughly translates as “a necklace of lights.” During Diwali, the flickering oil-wick diyas sprinkle the homes of observers around the world.
Before the festival, many Hindus traditionally go shopping, clean their homes, open their doors and windows, create intricate rangoli — a vibrant floor pattern traditionally made from materials such as rice powder, coloured sand and flower petals — and light diyas with hopes that Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity, will visit. In some regions of India, people play games, just as Hindu lore says that the god Shiva did. On the festive main day of the holiday, families pray for Lakshmi, dress up in their best clothes, enjoy lavish feasts and sweets, exchange gifts and light fireworks. Diwali also marks the new year for people in Gujarat and a few other states of India. Diwali also is celebrated as a major holiday by followers of the Jain and Sikh faiths.
Sally Andersen-Bruce, of New Milford, Conn., photographed the diya.
Greg Breeding, of Charlottesville, Virg., designed the stamp, and William J. Gicker of Washington, D.C., served as the project’s art director.
The Diwali stamp is being issued as a Forever stamp and will be equal in value to the current First Class Mail one-ounce price.
The USPS receives about 40,000 suggestions for stamp ideas from the public each year. Stamp subjects are reviewed by the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee, which is similar to Canada Post’s Stamp Advisory Cmmittee. Of the 40,000 suggestions received by the USPS each year, only about 25 are chosen by the committee for the U.S. Postmater General’s approval.