Diwali (or Deepawali, Deepavali) is an ancient Hindu festival that is celebrated in autumn every year. Diwali is also known as the ‘Festival of Light’ because it is celebrated using lights, fireworks and lanterns in private homes and public places.
It is celebrated in India and other countries such as Nepal, Malaysia, Fiji, and Mauritius.
When is Diwali celebrated?
Date and time: The date of the main Diwali festival is calculated based on the moon’s position and the Hindu Luna calendar. It, therefore, means that the date of the festival changes annually. Diwali is marked when the northern hemisphere is experiencing autumn while the southern hemisphere spring. In the Gregorian calendar, the festival is marked between mid-October and mid-November.
Diwali is 5 days long festival – with one day being the festival proper, and the other days consisting of preparations and other rituals.
According to the Hindu calendar, the no moon day, i.e., Amayasya is considered the perfect day to celebrate Diwali. In this context, the lights of the festival have a much more stark and bold effect.
Preparations for the Festival of Lights start about two days before the main festival, and the rituals last up to two days after Diwali. The primary festival of the Diwali celebrations coincides with the new moon night when it is darkest.
The 2017 date for main Diwali celebrations: Thursday, 19th day of October, 2017.
Origin of the Diwali Festival
The Diwali festival goes as far back as ancient India. It was a celebration held after the summer harvest in the month of Kartika in the Hindu calendar. The festival is believed to have transcended different eras and morphed into what we have now.
Who observe Diwali festival?
Diwali, or Deepavali, is important and the most sacred festival for the Hindus, and it is celebrated across the world – though primarily in India and Nepal. India observe official holiday on this day. It is celebrated throughout the country and though the biggest events will be found in large cities such as Delhi, Mumbai, Lucknow, etc., there will be no less important celebrations in towns and villages across India.
Besides India, Diwali festival is widely observed by across Sri Lanka, Singapore, Nepal, Malaysia and other countries with Hindu population.
What is the Significance/Importance this festival?
Diwali is, first and foremost, a very joyful celebration. Diwali lifts us out of work stress or other kinds of despondency and re-energizes us, refocusing our minds by reminding us about what is truly important in life.
Diwali reminds us what is really important in life. Good is better than evil, knowledge is preferable to ignorance and light is better than darkness. What is more, it couples this with a positive message: all of the good things listed will triumph over all of the bad things listed. This festival signifies that people who follow good path and doesn’t resort to injustice always win over the evil forces.
The lightening of candles also has a significance. Light refers to knowledge, wisdom and prosperity. Darkness refers to ignorance and evil-forces. This, lightening of candlelight on during the Diwali festival signifies the prevalence of knowledge and wisdom over ignorance.
It brings families and loved ones together: Diwali celebrations are a brilliant motivation to spend time with those that we love and to reconnect with them as mentioned above.
Diwali is a time to start anew – whatever that may mean for you. It might mean starting afresh with projects that you have been working on in the office, or by coming back to friends that you had lost touch with or even argued with and starting out again with them stronger than ever before.
Why do people celebrate Diwali?
The Festival of Lights, as the name suggests, is a celebration of the triumph of light over the darkness. Traditionally Diwali is a festival that celebrates light vanquishing darkness, good winning over evil and knowledge conquering ignorance. It is important to do good because the light will always drive out darkness. The time of the festival usually coincides with the night of the new moon when it’s darkest.
There are various reasons why this festival is important in the Hindu religious calendar. It can be traced back to several different moments in Hindu mythology, but all of them share this same essential message. Some of the mythological stories behind the celebration of Diwali that people follow are as follows:
- Some celebrate it because of the marriage of Goddess Lakshmi with the Lord Vishnu.
- Diwali is also celebrated to welcome the goddess of wealth, Lakshmi, into the homes of people. The lights are meant to help her find her way. It is also a day in which she is honored.
- In West Bengal, the Diwali festival is celebrated for the worship of Goddess Kali, the Goddess of Strength.
- In many Hindu homes, Lord Ganesha is also worshipped as the symbol of Wisdom.
- In Jainism, Diwali is celebrated as an event of Lord Mahavira attaining the nirvana, an eternal bliss.
- Many Hindus also celebrate Diwali in joy of return of Lord Rama along with his wife, Sita and with his brother Lakshman in Ayodha. Lord Rama returned to the capital of his Kingdom, Ayodhya, after spending 14 yrs in forest and defeating the demon King Ravana. Lord Rama was thereafter coronated as king.
- It is a religious festival that commemorates Lord Krishna’s victory over the evil King Narakaasura. As Diwali is marked, people remember this victory and what it means to those who practice the Hindu faith.
- In Sikhism, Diwali is celebrated as Bandi Chhor Divas.
Also read: What is Diwali? Why is It Celebrated?
How do people celebrate Diwali?
For Hindus, Diwali is the most important festival. The ritual and customs of Diwali varies from place to place.
Cleaning: For this occasion people clean, paint, decorate, and renovate their houses.
Dipak (diya): Candles or earthen diyas are lit and placed in various places to provide light. They are mostly placed around Rangoli decorations which are made using colored sand or powder. Every Hindu home, however lowly, is decorated on this day with twinkling dipak (clay lamps with oil) to welcome Godess Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity.
New dress: On the night of Diwali, people dress themselves in their best attire or outfit and take part in the family puja.
Rituals and Worship: Hindu rituals are also part of the Diwali celebrations. They are carried out on different days of the five-day festival, each having its own significance in the Hindu religion. They worship Lord Ganesha and Goddess Lakshmi. Goddess Lakshmi is the Goddess of wealth and prosperity. After the puja (worship) they sing a prayer collectively.
Hindu new year: The new commercial year of the Hindus begins with Diwali. The businessman opens new account books on this day.
Burn crackers: Diwali is celebrated by huge displays of fireworks and crackers. In the Hindu religion, this signifies the triumphant return of Lord Rama who was later on crowned as king.
People should take utmost safety measures while dealing with fireworks.
Food: Finally, after all these events, the whole family take the dinner feast together which includes sweets and drinks.
Gifts: The exchange of gifts is also a common feature of Diwali celebrations. Individuals and families exchange sweets, dried fruits, and other types of gifts that are appropriate for the occasion.
Shopping: Diwali is the only festival which marks a major shopping period in the nation.
Rangoli: On Diwali, many rangoli designs and other creative art can be seen on floors, walkways and near doors of the house of the Hindus. The range of designs and other creativite arts are generally done by girls and women. The decorative lights and flowers are put by the boys. The fireworks are enjoyed by every member of the family.
Thus, we find that light based observances are accompanied by other rituals and traditions, such as prayers (puja), cooking and eating feasts, cleaning the house or office, shopping for new things, and generally making a new start. The whole focus here is on regeneration. For example, it is common for people to buy and wear new clothes during Diwali, and creating a ‘new you’ in these small, external ways will mirror the deeper spiritual and emotional renewal that you will experience by participating in Diwali with all of your heart and soul.
Also read: Essay on Diwali Festival
Major Diwali Events in India: Major events during the Diwali festival in India include:
- Uttar Pradesh: celebrations are some of the most elaborate, complete with Ganga Aarti. The major event is usually held in Varanasi.
- Theatre and drama in Andhra Pradesh.
- The celebration of the ‘Kali Puja’ in Kolkata.
- Traditional oil baths in Tamil Nadu.
What is the duration of Diwali festival?
Diwali festival is typically a 5 day long festival.
First day: On the first day, Diwali starts with Dhanteras which falls on the 18 day after the Dussehra.
Second day: On the second day, Naraka Chaturdasi is celebrated.
Third day: On the third day, Diwali, the main festival is celebrated.
Fourth day: After Diwali, i.e., on the fourth day, Diwali Padva is celebrated which dedicates the relationship between Husband & Wife.
Fifth day: Finally, the Diwali festival ends on the fifth day with Bhau-beej which dedicates the relationship between sister and brother, the bond between them, and the love between them.
Rituals of renewal and celebrations of joy help us to bring more good into our lives, and to motivate us to become better versions of ourselves. Diwali is a time to leave behind anything that had been holding us back and to step forth into the world refreshed and determined to do good.