Welcome to the David Victor Vector Blog

Welcome to the David Victor Vector blog. This is blog that covers religious observances around the world international affairs and global business. This blog describes religious holidays for most major religions as well as raising issues dealing with globalization, international business ethics, cross-cultural business communication and political events affecting business in an integrated world economy. I look forward your discussion and commentary on these articles and subjects. Enjoy!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Ashura 2015

At sunset on the night of Thursday October 22 (for 2015) and lasting through the sunset on Friday, October 23 is the Islamic holiday of Ashura. Some Muslims in North America follow a different interpretation of when the holiday starts and observe it from Friday evening October 23 through sunset on Sunday October 24. This post in no way is meant to indicate the interpretation for which of these is correct; I simply want to make readers aware of the dates possible. 

As part of the religious observance discussions, I would like to share a bit on the holiday with you. Because Arabic does not transliterate consistently into other languages, Ashura is also commonly spelled as Ashoura or Ashurah. In India, where it is a national holiday, it is often known as Moharram and in the Caribbean (especially Trinidad & Tobago and Jamaica) the holiday is called Hosay.

Sadly this holiday has often been marked by sectarian violence. With this in mind, I have given below a list of the many Ashura attacks since 1994.
Religious Significance

While Ashura is celebrated by all Moslems, it is of particular importance to Shi’ites for whom it is one of the most important holidays of the Moslem calendar.

For most Moslems – Shi’a and Sunni alike -- Ashura is believed to be the date that Nuh (Noah in the Jewish and Christian tradition) had his ark come to rest after the Flood.   It is also believed to be the birthday of the Moslem Prophet Ibrahim (who is the same person as the patriarch Abraham of the Jewish and Christian Bible). Some Moslems believe that Ashura will be the date on which Qiyaamah (doomsday) will take place (although this position is rejected by many others).  Finally, Ashura is widely believed to be the anniversary of the creation of the Ka’aba, the holiest structure in Islam and the center point of the haj to Mecca.

For Shi’a Moslems, Ashura is the anniversary of the murder of Husayn ibn Ali at the Battle of Karbala  
Husayn ibn Ali (626-680)

in the year 680 (61 AH in the Moslem calendar).  Husayn ibn Ali (born in 626) was the grandson of the Prophet Mohamed and is considered by Shi’ites to have been the Third Imam and thus the rightful successor to the Prophet.  As this is one of the centrally defining beliefs of Shi’a Islam, Shi'ites believe that (what they view as) the martyrdom of Husayn is symbolic of the sacrifices needed in the face of all that is unjust, oppressive or  repressive.  

For Shi’ites, Ashura is a mandatory fast day and a day for mourning.  Many Shi’ite traditions also include public gatherings of men who beat themselves on the chest, cut their heads and similar activities to share in the pain that Husayn ibn Ali experienced. The Ashura page on the Holiday Year website has a selection of some (moderately graphic) images of worshippers cutting themselves in worship at

Many Shi’ite traditions include special chants accompanied by drumbeats and stage performances reenacting the Battle of Karbala.

Most Sunni Moslems also celebrate Ashura, although they do not usually recognize anything to do with Husayn ibn Ali.  For Sunnis, Ashura marked the 10th day (Ashura actually means 10th in Arabic) of the Hejirah, when Mohamed fled with his followers to Medina.  He found the Jews there (on Yom Kippur) fasting in what the Moslem tradition considered to be in remembrance of Moses (a prophet for Islam as well as Judaism).  It is for this reason (with nothing to do with Husayn ibn Ali) that Sunnis have an optional fast on Ahurah.  It should be noted that Sunnis – while they feel no religious importance with the death of Husayn ibn Ali -- do regard his death as a sad incident of
historical significance.   


Imam Husayn Shrine, Karbala, Iraq
Karbala, Iraq (also spelled Kerbala, Kerbela and Karbela) is the site of the Battle of Karbala. It remains a major pilgrimage destination for Shi'ites in particular, although often visited by other Moslems as well.  In the Imam Husayn Shrine in Karbala are the tombs not only of Husayn ibn Ali but also of the 72 martyrs of the Battle of Karbala.
Indeed, because of its significance, for centuries, worshippers have gone on pilgrimage to Karbala, Iraq to the shrine of Husayn’s martyrdom there. 

As a side note, under the regime of Saddam Hussein, Ashura pilgrimages were banned because Saddam (probably at least in part rightly) interpreted the demonstrations at Karbala as expressions of protest against not just tyranny in general, but as specifically against those who considered his own rule tyrannical.  Only in 2004, with the fall of Saddam Hussein, were Shi’ites allowed again to make the pilgrimage to Karbala.  Sadly, 2004’s pilgrimage was marred by widespread violence including bomb attacks among the pilgrims which killed 170 people and wounded over 500 others.

History of Violence

 Rawalpindi Ashura Attack, 2013
Because of tensions between Shi’ites and Sunni Moslems, Ashura has sadly been marked by violence between the two groups in recent years.

Ashura last year in 2013 was no exception. Several attacks including a suicide bombing left 41 worshippers dead in Karbala, Iraq. At the same time, a suicide bomber in Diyala Province, Iraq left 32 dead and 80 injured.  In Pakistan a Sunni mob attacked a Shi'ite procession in Rawalpindi, Pakistan leaving 10 dead and 80 injured.

In recent years, in 2012, a bomb attack on a Shi'ite procession in Dera Ismail Khan in Northwest Pakistan  left seven people dead (including three children) and over 30 injured. On Ashura, 2011, in two separate attacks in Afghanistan and one in Iraq, Shi'ites were targetted. In an unusual targeting of Shi'ites in Afghanistan, 63 people were killed and over 100 injured in separate attacks in Kabul and the normally peaceful Mazar-i-Sharif.  Meanwhile in Iraq, in Hilla, two car bombs targeted Shi'ites. Hilla is a city on the pilgrimage route to Karbala. The first hit a crowd of mostly women and children killing 16 and injuring 46; the second (involving two coordinated bomb explosions) killed at least six more and wounded 18.  Seven additional bombs were set off among Shi'ites in three separate locations in Baghdad killing at least 8 and injuring 18 more. Finally, a gunman on the outskirts of Baghdad opened fire on Shi'ites marching in a procession toward Karbala, killing two and wounding four.

For coverage of the 2013 attack in Pakistan, please see:
For coverage of the 2013 attacks in Iraq, please see:
For coverage of the 2012 attack in Pakistan, please see:
For coverage of the 2011 Afghan attacks, please see 
For coverage of the 2011 Iraqi attacks, please see

The modern history of sectarian killings on Ashurah began with the 1994 attack in MasshadIran when a prayer hall bombing murdered 25 worshippers.

Over the last decade, a partial list of violent sectarian attacks on Ashura would include:

  • 2004, Karbala and Baghdad, Iraq – Over a dozen coordinated suicide attacks, 178 killed, at least 500 injured
  • 2005, Baghdad, Baqouba and Latifiya, Iraq – Coordinated suicide bombing, 27 killed, 60 wounded
  • 2006, Hangu, Pakistan – Attacks on Shi’ite worshipers, 36 killed, over 100 injured
  • 2006, Herat, Afghanistan -- Two Shiite mosques burned to the ground accompanied by mob attacks, 4 killed and 27 injured
  • 2007, Balad Ruz, Iraq – Suicide bombing of Shi’ite procession, 23 klled, 57 injured
  • 2007, Baghdad Iraq – Coordinated bombing and gunfire attacks on Shi’ite pilgrims, 9 killed, 24 injured. 2007, Hafriya, Iraq
  • 2008, Basra, Iraq and Nasiriya, Iraq -- Clashes between the Iraqi military and the militant Shi’ite sect Jund As-Samaa (Soldiers of Heaven), 263 people killed -- Security checkpoint protecting worshippers attacked, 2 killed
  • 2009, Karachi, Pakistan – Procession bombing, 43  killed, 60 injured; additionally, police arrested five terrorists as they thwarted a plot to hand out cyanide-laced water to Shi’ite pilgrims in the procession
  • 2010, Chabahar, Iran – Double suicide bombing attack on Shi’ite procession, 33 killed, 95 injured 
  • 2011, Kabul and Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan – Two suicide bombings, one at the Abu Fazi Mosque in Kabul during services left 70 people dead and at the Blue Mosque in Mazar-i-Sharif left 4 dead.
  • 2011, Mahmoudiya, Iraq -- Bombing kills one and injures 3
  • 2011, Latifiyah, Iraq -- Bombing kills 2 and injures 4
  • 2011, Mosul, Iraq -- Twin bombings kill 2 policemen and kills 3 civilians and injures x 
  • 2011, Baghdad, Iraq -- Eight separate attacks killing 34 and injuring 64
  • 2012, Dera Ismail Khan, Pakistan --  Procession bombing killing 7 people (including 3 children) and injuring 90
  • 2012, Sanaa, Yemen --  Bombing killing 4 people and injuring13
  • 2013, Karbala, Iraq -- Suicide bombing killing 41    
  • 2013, Diyala Province, Iraq -- Suicide bombing in Diyala Province, killing 32 and injuring 80 
  • 2013, Rawalpindi, Pakistan -- Sunni mob attacked a Shi'ite procession killing 10 and injuring 80  
  • 2013, Karbala, Iraq – Suicide bombing kills 41
  • 2013, Diyala Province, Iraq – Bombing kills 32 and injures 80 injured. 
  • 2013, Tikrit, Iraq – Car bombing kills 3 policemen and 8 civilians
  • 2013, Fallujah, Iraq – Three policeman’s houses bombed killing four
  • 2013, Baquba, Iraq – Triple bombing killing 28
  • 2013,  Rawalpindi, Pakistan -- Sunni mob attacks Shi'ite procession in Rawalpindi, Pakistan leaving 10 dead and 80 injured.
  • 2014, Buraida, Saudi Arabia -- Gunmen kill 5 and injure 9 during prayer services
  • 2014, Baquba, Iraq -- Three coordinated bomb attacks kill 8 and injure 28
  • 2014, Tikrit, Iraq -- Car bombing kills 11 including 3 police officers
  • 2014, Fallujah, Iraq -- Three coordinated car bombs target homes of police officers, killing four

As in past messages, I am summarizing a complex and deeply held set of beliefs here, but I still hope that you continue to find these messages of value.

Further Reading\
For more information, Al Jazeera has good article from 2008 on Ashura at

Ashura.com is an entire website devoted to the holiday:

Islam House presents some information (though with a strong position taken against traditional beliefs such as the belief that it will be the date on which Qiyaamah will take place) on Ashura at

Other sources that may prove of interest are at


Philadelphia Dialog Forum


BBC Religions website

Clipart sources

Opening clip art "Every day is Ashura Day":From Teqe America's website: http://teqeamerica.com/events/holidays

The image of Husayn ibn Ali is from the Damascus in History and Pictures website (Husayn's skull was for many years preserved in Damascus' Ummayad Mosque):

The image of the Imam Husayn Shrine is from the free-usage files at Wikipedia at

The image of Rawalpindi Ashura Attack, 2013: http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/world/2013-11/16/c_132892310.htm

Monday, November 12, 2012


For 2016, the Hindu, Jain and Sikh celebration of Diwali begins on Sunday October 30 and will continue for five days through Thursday November 3.

The festival of Diwali  (also called as Deepavali, Divali, Devali and -- in Nepal -- Tihar or Swanti) is the most important holiday in the Hindu calendar. It is also an important holiday for Jains and Sikhs.

For most people, the holiday should not affect class or work attendance, but may be observed by many students who practice one of these three religions.

Diwali marks the last day of the Hindu calendar.  The holiday can last up to five days and celebrates (at least in part) the victory of light over darkness and good over evil. In much of India (and especially in the North), the business community starts their financial new year with the holiday, and it is the beginning of the fiscal year.

Diwali is celebrated throughout the Hindu world, regardless of region (which is not always the case for other holidays).  Divali is an official holiday not only in India and Nepal which both of majority Hindu populations, but also in Singapore, Sri Lanka, Trinidad & Tobago, Malaysia, Guyana, Mauritius and Fiji.

Laxmi's footprints
Various traditions for celebrating Diwali include lighting of oil lamps (diyas or jyothis), setting off of fire crackers, exchanging and eating decorated sweets, gathering at people's holiday-decorated homes in celebration and visiting Temples.   

In different parts of India, the holiday is marked by the giving of gifts of new utensils (especially cooking utensils), wearing of new clothes and/or the cleaning and painting of homes or workplaces. Many cities and towns also hold Diwali melas or open-air fairs during Diwali. For most Hindu traditions, Laxmi (or Lakshmi), the goddess of prosperity is especially revered on Divali. With homes with children, people often leave female footprints on the floor after the children have gone to sleep so that when they wake up they will see that the goddess Laxmi has visited the home in the night.

Gulab jaman
Special foods are often eaten. Some of these are widely eaten throughout India. For instance, regardless of region, it is customary to eat things that are sweet such as gulab jaman, which is usually made of milk dough soaked in rosemary, sugar syrup and cardamom. A recipe for gulab jaman can be found at:


Also, specialties made with cashews or pistachios are also widely eaten for Diwali. In much of India, delicacies are made from Lord Krishna’s favorite food Poha (also called Foav or Pauva) which is pounded semi-cooked sweetened rice and eaten on the second day of the festival.

Other Diwali food specialties are more regional.  For example, in much of the north of India, people eat patandas made of flour, unprocessed sugar cane and ghee as well as poodas (or mal poohas) made of flour and sugar syrup and eaten with chutney.

Sel roti
In Nepal, the traditional treat for Tihar (the Nepali name for Diwali) is called sel roti. Made of rice flour, milk and ghee and (depending on custom) flavored with cardamom or clove, the sel roti is somewhat like a thin, circular doughnut. Many Nepalis exchange sel roti with one another as gifts throughout Tihar. A recipe for sel roti can be found at


In the far south of India, many sweets are eaten leading up to Diwali and into the first day, notably those made from honey and unprocessed sugar cane.  
Mawa Kachori
In Maharashtra a special mix of cane sugar and coriander seeds is customarily eaten on the first day. In Rajasthan, many people traditionally begin the holiday by eating Mawa Kachori, a puffed pastry made with sweetened evaporated milk (mawa) and nuts. A recipe for Mawa Kachori can be found at:

Religious Significance Diwali

Lord Krishna defeating Narakasura
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York 
Hindu Traditions

Diwali has three main Hindu religious stories attached to it.  While some Hindu traditions have other associations as well, these three are the most widespreaed.

First (and especially in South India), the holiday of Diwali commemorates the victory of Lord Krishna over the demon king Narakasura, and so the victory of good over evil. Narakasura -- himself a son of Vishnu -- had become power-crazed overwelming Indra and other Vedas. He also became horribly abusive to women, enraging Krishna's wife Stayabhama and her relative Aditi. At the pleading of the Vedas and Aditi, Krishna attacked the demon. Riding on the battle-eagle Garuda, Krishna withstood various attacks from the armies of Narakasura, then withstood the thunderbolts and trident attacks of Narakasura himself. Krishna then used his discus to behead the demon king. Before dying, though, Krishna was asked to celebrate the anniversary of his death as a holiday, to which Krishna agreed. As a result, the first day of Diwali is celebrated as such.

Rama defeating Ravana
Second (and especially in North India), Diwali celebrates the return after 14 years of exile of King Rama and his wife Sita and brother Lakshmana. The holiday marks their return after a war in which King Rama killed the demon Ravana.  Because it was dark as they returned, people lit oil lamps to light their way and thus the link of light over darkness.

Third, in Bhavishyottara and Bramhavaivarta Purana holy writings, Diwali is associated with Daitya king Bali, who is allowed to return to earth once a year.

The Significance of the Five Days

For Hindus, each of the five days carries a different significance. The first day throughout India is customarily dedicated to honoring Dhanavantri (also called Dhanvantar), the physician of the gods and the source of the Ayurveda (in Sanskrit, “the complete knowledge for long life”). Because of its association with Dhanavantri, the first day of Divali is often known as Dhanteras and includes the ritual lighting of oil lamps and veneration of the goddess Laxmi in her owl form. As with most pujas, Lord Ganesha – the deity who removes obstacles – is given honor at the opening of the holiday.


In many Hindu traditions, the first day of Diwali includes the ritual of Deepdaan in which worshipers light oil lamps for each member of their family and for often for their ancestors then set them afloat (usually) in a river or pond. Another Hindu tradition practiced in much of India is the giving of gold and jewelry gifts to bring about prosperity, making Diwali a major day for jewelers.  In northern India and Gujarat, many Hindus celebrate Yamadeepdaan in which lamps are dedicated to the god of death Yamraj (or Yam) and kept lit all night long. In the far south of India, many Hindus celebrate the days leading up to Diwali as Asweyuja Bahula Thrayodasi, dedicated to the god of finance Lord Kubera in which shopowners whitewash their business, recite a special mantra to Lord Kubera and give coins to honor the goddess Laxmi. In West Bengal, Diwali coincides with the Puja Kali. While the rest of India honors Laxmi on this day, in West Bengal, Hindus honor Kali the Destroyer goddess of time and change.

Diwali fireworks

For many Hindu traditions, the second day of Diwali often begins with ritual bathing before the sun comes up, with an anointing of oil and scrubbing of the body with ubtan (a mixture of fragrances with grains or rough flour). In West Bengal, as part of the Puja Kali celebrations, the second day is observed as the day the goddess Kali destroyed the demon Raktavija. Regardless of tradition, this is the traditional day for cracking open crackers (of the sort used in Britain on Christmas Day) and for setting off of firecrackers. Many areas have major firework displays on the second day of Diwali.

Swami Dayananda Saraswati
The third day of Diwali for most Hindu traditions centers on the veneration of Laxmi. That said, the third day of Diwali also marks the anniversary of the death in 1883 of the founder of the Arya Samaj Hindu Reform Movement Swami Dayananda Saraswati.  The followers of the Arya Samaj therefore often mark the day as a day of remembrance for Swami Dayananda Saraswati.

Lord Krishna
lifting Gorvardhan
The fourth day of Diwali is celebrated in many Hindu traditions with a special Govardhan Puja. This puja commemorates Lord Krishna’s defeat of the rain god Lord Indra by lifting Govardhan Mountain. Some interpretations (there are many variations) explain that Lord Krishna needed to defeat the Lord Indra because the rain god had become to arrogant and filled with self-pride. In doing so Lord Krishna taught worshipers to pray to more than just the rains by embracing the whole of nature. This celebration is also called Annakut (literally meaning “pile of grain”) because people in many parts of India decorate a mountain of grain symbolizing Govardhan Mountain.

On the fifth Day of Diwali comes the Bhai Duj or Bhai Teeka, a final day of celebration. On this day traditionally, brothers visit the houses of their sisters to honor them and bring gifts. Sisters in turn feed their brothers special delicacies. The celebration commemorates the visit on this day of the death god Lord Yama to his twin sister Yami (also called Yamuna or Yamini), the first woman. Lord Yama gave his sister a special gift that whoever visited her on this day would be cleared of sins.

Diwali in Jainism and Sikhism

As mentioned earlier, Diwali is not only practiced by Hindus. It is also a holiday for Jains and Sikhs. 

Diwali Traditions in Jainism
Lord Mahavira

In Jainism, Diwali is of particular significance. Jains, like Hindus, celebrate the holiday not only as the beginning of their New Year and as a time for a fresh start. Importantly, though, Jains also celebrate the holiday as the anniversary of Moksha (the attaining of nirvana) of Lord Mahavira, the founder of the religion.

Diwali Traditions in Sikhism

In Sikhism, Diwali is celebrated as a commemoration of the release from prison of the sixth Sikh Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji.  When Jahangir, the fourth Mughal emperor succeeded his father -- the famously religiously tolerant Akbar the Great. Although he was not a particularly devout Muslim, Jahangir  felt threatened by the non-Muslims in his empire, including the Sikhs but also many Hindus. As a result of his concerns regarding the Sikhs, Jahangir arrested Hargobind's father the fifth Sikh Guru Arjan Dev. Jahangir tortured Guru Arjan Dev for five days before having him killed.

Release of Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji
and the 52 Hindu Kings
At this point, the young Hargobind -- only eleven years old at the time -- became the sixth Sikh Guru. Jahangir arrested the young Guru Hargobind but did not kill him as he had killed his father. Instead, Guru Hargobind was imprisoned (along with 52 Hindu kings) at Gwalior Fort. He remained there from 1617 until Diwali of 1619 when Guru Hargobind and the Hindu kings were freed. It is this release from imprisonment that the Sikhs celebrate at Diwali. The holiday is commonly called Bandi Chorh Divas or Prisoner Release Day.

Concluding Remarks

This overview of Diwali is meant only as a very superficial summary. Also, nothing written here is meant to be an indication of one way or another as the proper or correct way to worship. This is meant solely as an attempt to provide a layperson's quick summary of Diwali.

Because there are literally hundreds of separate traditions for celebrating Diwali, I could only cover a few here. Please do feel free to share any of your own traditions that I have not covered.

Whatever your tradition,  Happy Diwali!

Want to learn more?

For Hindu traditions, you may wish to look at

For Sikh tradtions and the story of Guru Hargobind, turn to

For Jain traditions, turn to

Lord Krishna defeating the demon Narakasura: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Krishna_Narakasura.jpg

Release of Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji and the 52 Hindu Kings: http://jattsingh.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Bandi-Chhorh-Divas.jpg