Diwali (also called Divali or Deepavali) is a “festival of lights” that celebrates the triumph of light over dark and good over evil, and the blessings of victory, freedom, and enlightenment. The name comes from Sanksrit Deepavali, meaning “row of lights.” On the night of Diwali, celebrants light dozens of candles and clay lamps (called diyas), placing them throughout their homes and in the streets to light up the dark night.
In most of India, Diwali consists of a five-day celebration that peaks on the third day with the main celebration of Diwali. In other places where Diwali occurs, usually, only the main day is celebrated.
Diwali is an important festival for Hindus around the world. It is also celebrated by Sikhs, Jains, and Buddhists. Diwali commemorates the return of Lord Rama to his kingdom, Ayodhya, after an exile period of 14 years. People of Ayodhya lit the city brightly and welcomed Rama, Lakshman, and Sita by firing crackers.
Diwali festival is also believed to be the symbol of Goddess Lakshmi coming home. Thus people celebrate by lighting many clay lamps called ‘diyas’ around their homes. This signifies the victory of good over evil and that is why Diwali is also known as the festival of lights. People worship Goddess Lakshmi and Lord Ganesha on this day as they are believed to bring good luck, prosperity, and wealth.
WHO CELEBRATES DIWALI?
Diwali is primarily celebrated by followers of the Hindu, Sikh, and Jain faiths. However, the holiday is celebrated throughout India, Singapore, and several other South Asian countries as a national holiday, meaning that people outside these religions may participate in Diwali celebrations, too. Hindu, Sikh, and Jain communities in the United Kingdom, United States, Australia, and elsewhere around the globe also regularly celebrate Diwali.
WHEN IS DIWALI?
Diwali occurs annually in autumn (or spring, in the southern hemisphere), during the Hindu month of Kartik. (To put it in Western terms, Kartik begins around mid-October and ends in mid-November.) Specifically, Diwali occurs on the darkest day of the lunar month, which is the day of the new Moon.
DIWALI DATES THIS YEAR
- 1 November 2021 Ekadashi/Dwadashi
- 2 November 2021 Dhanteras
- 3 November 2021 Chhoti Diwali
- 4 November 20211 Deepawali
DIWALI TRADITIONS AND CUSTOMS
Because Diwali is celebrated by so many people worldwide, traditions are diverse, though there are a few common themes, including the lighting of candles and the gathering of families.
The main celebration of Diwali takes place on the day of the new moon, when the sky is at its darkest, so a big part of the celebration revolves around light. Candles, clay lamps, and oil lanterns are lit and placed throughout the home, in the streets, in areas of worship, and floated on lakes and rivers. Fireworks are also set off on the night of Diwali said by some to ward off evil spirits.
Another central theme of Diwali is family. Wearing their best new clothes, families gather together to eat sweets and other special foods, light diyas (decorative oil lamps), and pray for their ancestors. Businesses are generally closed (or close early) on Diwali to allow workers to celebrate with their families, too.
The feast can be quite extravagant, with the table filled with special dishes and sweets. In honor of Diwali.
DIWALI IN INDIA
In much of India, Diwali consists of five days of celebrations rather than just one.
- On the first day, Indians clean their homes and create intricate rangoli—designs made of colored rice, sand, or flowers created on the floor of the home.
- A rangoli made of flowers.
- The second day is spent preparing or buying special food (especially sweets, called mithai), as well as praying for the spirits of ancestors in the afterlife.
- On the third day—the main day of Diwali—families gather and celebrate by lighting lanterns and candles in their homes and in the streets, and by shooting off fireworks! (In southern India, the second day is the main day of celebration, rather than the third.)
- Traditions of the fourth day vary, but a common theme is a bond between husband and wife, so husbands will often buy their spouses gifts to celebrate.
- The fifth day focuses on the bond between siblings, specifically between brother and sister.
Significance and Importance of 5 Days of Diwali
Diwali celebrations go on for five days and each day has its significance.
Diwali begins with the first day known as ‘Dhanteras’ or the worship of wealth. Goddess Lakshmi is worshipped on this day and there is a custom to purchase something precious. People clean and decorate their homes.
Naraka Chaturdashi or Choti Diwali :
The second day is Naraka Chaturdashi or Choti Diwali. People wake up early and apply aromatic oils to them before taking a bath. This is said to remove all sins and impurities. They wear new clothes, offer Puja and enjoy by lighting diyas and bursting a few crackers.
Lakshmi Puja :
The third day is the main Diwali festival. Lakshmi Puja is performed on this day. Goddess Lakshmi is believed to enter homes and bless people with good fortune. Tiny oil diyas, candles, and electric lights are placed around the house. Families exchange gifts and gather together to burst crackers.
Govardhan Puja or Padva :
The fourth day is Govardhan Puja or Padva. It is the day when Lord Krishna defeated Indra by lifting the huge Govardhan Mountain. People make a small hillock, usually of cow dung, symbolizing Govardhan and worship it.
Bhai Dooj :
The fifth and last day is Bhai Dooj. On this day sisters invite their brothers for a lavish meal and perform a ‘tilak’ ceremony. Sisters pray for their brother’s long and happy life while the brothers give gifts to their sisters.
People display fireworks during Diwali but it should be kept in mind as to not create noise and air pollution which can harm the environment.
Do you celebrate Diwali? What traditions do you follow for the holiday? Let us know in the comments below—and Happy Diwali to those who celebrate!