On recounting familial traditions, my brother illuminated a practice our grandfather adheres to during Diwali, the quintessential festival of lights in Northern India. Amidst the festivities, a peculiar custom is observed: the search for lizards on the exterior walls of the home. These creatures, typically mundane and unnoticed, are sought after on Diwali night as harbingers of good fortune and wealth.


This ritual, as my brother narrates, unfolds each year without fail, where our grandfather would lead us on an expedition to discover lizards clambering on the walls. The belief holds that spotting these reptiles during the luminous celebration signifies impending prosperity. Intriguingly, this auspicious omen is exclusively tied to Diwali night — it is as though the lizards emerge from their concealment solely for this event, or perhaps our perception of their presence is heightened by the belief’s gravity. On all other nights, these lizards retreat into obscurity, going unnoticed by my brother and the rest of the family.


The practice of seeking lizards on Diwali night can be classified as a folk belief, deeply ingrained in the cultural fabric of the celebration. It’s a manifestation of the principle of sympathetic magic, particularly homeopathic, wherein the appearance of a creature is symbolically linked to prosperity. Just as Frazer discussed the symbolic use of objects in rituals to influence outcomes, the spotting of lizards is a physical representation of welcoming abundance. In Larry Danielson’s exploration of religious folklore, he notes that such traditions often emerge within communities, not through institutional decree but via the organic spread among individuals — a sentiment that resonates with our grandfather’s personal endorsement of this custom. The lizards’ nocturnal visibility on Diwali may be seen as a confluence of belief and tradition, where the collective spirit and heightened energies of the festival could cast everyday occurrences in a mystical light. The specificity of the timing underscores the contextual significance of the belief — it is not the lizards themselves but their association with the festival that carries weight. This belief, ephemeral as the festival itself, is a reflection of hope and the human tendency to seek signs of future prosperity in the world around us, an embodiment of collective optimism that momentarily transforms the mundane into the auspicious.