Diwali is a Hindu festival of lights, which is celebrated every autumn in the northern hemisphere. It’s a national festival that is enjoyed by most Indians regardless of faith.
What is Diwali?
It’s one of the most popular festivals of Hinduism, Diwali symbolizes the spiritual victory of light over darkness, good over evil and knowledge over ignorance. During the celebration, temples, homes, shops and office buildings are brightly illuminated. This festival is as important to Hindus as the Christmas holiday is to Christians.
What is done during the festival?
In the lead-up to Diwali, celebrants will prepare by cleaning, renovating, and decorating their homes and workplaces. During the climax, revelers adorn themselves in their finest clothes, illuminate the interior and exterior of their homes with oil lamps or candles, offer worship to Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity and wealth, light fireworks, and partake in family feasts, where sweets and gifts are shared.
The five days of Diwali
- On the first day of, people consider it auspicious to spring clean the home and shop for gold or kitchen utensils.
- On the second day, people decorate their homes with clay lamps and create design patterns called rangoli on the floor using colored powders or sand.
- The third day is the main day of the festival when families gather together to worship the goddess of prosperity and wealth followed by mouth-watering feasts and firework festivities.
- The fourth day is the first day of the new year when friends and relatives visit with gifts and best wishes for the season.
- On the last day of, brothers visit their married sisters who welcome them with love and a lavish meal.
The history of Diwali
The Diwali festival is likely a fusion of harvest festivals in ancient India. It’s mentioned in Sanskrit texts such as the Padma Purana, the Skanda Purana both of which were completed in the second half of the 1st millennium CE. The lamps are mentioned in Skanda Purana as symbolizing parts of the sun, describing it as the cosmic giver of light and energy to all life and which seasonally transitions in the particular Hindu calendar month.
It’s since ancient times that Diwali has been celebrated. It is not easy to say now what really was the reason behind its origin. Different people believe different events to be the cause behind this festival.
Today, many celebrate it in remembrance of the return of Lord Rama and Sita after 14 years of exile, while others honor the return of Pandavas after 12 years of exile and a year of exile. The festival, according to popular legend, is also associated with the story of Yama and Nachiketa—one that narrates the tale of true wealth, knowledge and right versus wrong.
It’s also one of the reasons why Diwali is celebrated as the festival of prosperity, wisdom, and light.
Diwali is celebrated by Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, and Newar Buddhists, although for each faith it marks different historical events and stories, nonetheless, the festival represents the same symbolic victory of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, and good over evil.
Other traditions and significance
During the season of Diwali, numerous rural townships and villages host fairs, where local producers and artisans trade produce and goods. A variety of entertainments are usually available for inhabitants of the local community to enjoy. The womenfolk, in particular, adorn themselves in colourful attire and decorate their hands with henna.
Such events are also mentioned in Sikh historical records. In the modern day, Diwali fairs are held at college, or university, campuses or as community events by members of the Indian diaspora. At such events, a variety of music, dance and arts performances, food, crafts, and cultural celebrations are featured.
Diwali marks a major shopping period in India and is comparable to the Christmas period in terms of consumer purchases and economic activity. It’s traditionally a time when households purchase new clothing, home refurbishments, gifts, gold, jewelry, and other large purchases, particularly as the festival, is dedicated to the goddess of wealth and prosperity, and such purchases are considered auspicious.
Diwali is one of the major festivals where rural Indians spend a significant portion of their annual income and is a means for them to renew their relationships and social networks. Other goods that are bought in substantial quantities during Diwali include confectionery and fireworks.
असतो मा सद्गमय |
तमसो मा ज्योतिर्गमय |
मृत्योर्मा अमृतं गमय |
ॐ शांति: शांति: शांति: |
Meaning of the prayer: From untruth lead us to Truth. From darkness lead us to Light.
From death lead us to Immortality. Peace, Peace, Peace!
Diwali is a celebration that unites people from every corner. The simple smile and a kind, accommodating heart melt even the hardest of hearts.