Diwali is an ancient Hindu festival of lights, which represents the eternal triumph of light over darkness or the victory of good over evil. Diwali, which literally means row of lights in Hindi, is primarily celebrated in India. This celebration of light is India's most important holiday and marks the start of the New Year.
Like many Indian festivals, Diwali celebrates different traditions and stories. One of the most popular stories celebrated by Diwali is the return of Lord Rama who had been exiled for 14 years. Diyas (lamps) are lit to guide and illuminate Lord Rama's path back to his Kingdom. Diwali also celebrates the Goddess Lakshmi: Hindu goddess of prosperity and wealth. Throughout the festival, daily and nightly rituals differ. Diwali night is a festive occasion where celebrants adorn in jewelry and new clothing to light diyas and fireworks. Diwali celebrations last for five days and take place sometime in October or November.
- Diwali commemorates the return of a deity known as Lord Rama from a 14-year exile. Lamps are lit to guide Lord Rama's and his family's way.
- A Diya, burned on Diwali, is an oil lamp made from clay. It is fueled by a cotton wick often dipped in oil.
- Diwali is an official public holiday across India, Fiji, Guyana, Malaysia, Nepal, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Trinidad, Mauritius, Tobago, and Suriname.
- According to Sanskrit scriptures, Diwali is thought to have originated as a harvest festival in ancient India during the 1st millennium AD. It exists as a remnant from the times when agriculture was a central component to most people’s daily lives. Some believe that Diwali signifies the marriage of Lord Vishnu and Lakshmi, while others attribute Diwali to commemorating the return of Lord Rama with Sita after a 14-year exile.
- Sikhs, Jains, and Buddhists also observe Diwali in some parts of India and Nepal. These religions are derived from Hinduism, the religion from which Diwali originates.
Diwali Top Events and Things to Do
- Celebrate the first day of Diwali (Dhanteras) by stringing lights or placing candles around your home. This day marks the birthday of the Goddess Lakshimi.
- If you are a woman, celebrate the second day of Diwali (Naraka Chaturdasai) by creating Rangoli designs (colorful patterns made of dried flour and rice) on your floor, and paint your hands with henna designs. Naraka Chaturdasai is also often marked by religious devotions.
- Celebrate the third day of Diwali (Lakshimi puja) by wearing your finest clothes and lighting diya lamps. Religious rituals are performed to the goddess Lakshmi on this day. She is believed to roam the earth at night. You can also keep your windows open to welcome her.
- Give an elaborate gift to your wife on the fourth day of Diwali (Padwa). The day is dedicated to celebrating the love between married couples, much like the Western concept of Valentine's Day. Traditional gifts include flowers, chocolates, sweets and gold jewelry.
- Exchange gifts with your sibling during the final day of Diwali (Bhai Duj). Bhai Duj is similar in spirit to Padwa, but focuses on the affection and bond between siblings. According to tradition, sisters perform prayer rituals (puja) for their brothers and gift them with sweets. In return, brothers gift their sister with cash or small gifts such as flowers, chocolates and jewelry.