Diwali, the festival of lights, is now celebrated globally across the world. All kinds of lights are lit on the darkest night or the new moon day. This festivity lasts for five days. Each day has its own rituals and significance. To understand Diwali better, let’s look into all the aspects of Diwali.
What is Diwali?
Diwali is celebrated to express happiness. The darkness of ignorance and evil within oneself is dispelled by the light of knowledge. This is the victory of good over evil. The houses and business premises are cleaned and decorated with Diya. These are small earthen lamps, filled with sesame, mustard or coconut oil with lighted wick. Nowadays electric lightings like fairy lights, LED lights and electric lamps in assortment of colours are available and they adorn the buildings. People relish the various types of sweets and traditional dishes. People of all ages gather together to burst the crackers eventually lighting up the sky with different shades of the colors. Just like the festival of Christmas, people gift their family and friends with presents. It is the time for get together of family and friends.
The floor is decorated with colorful Rangolis of quartz powder or rice flour or flowers. In south India people take oil massage ritualistic bath. Elaborate Pooja is performed by offering flowers, sweets and clothes to the God.
The earthen lamp or "diya"
Why is Diwali celebrated?
According to Google Maps, the journey to Sri Lanka to Ayodhya takes 21 days by foot. Diwali is celebrated exactly 21 days after Vijaya Dashmi – the day on which Lord Rama slayed the Lankan King Ravana and rescued his wife Sita from his captivity. After this war, Rama, Sita and his brother Laxman returned to their kingdom Ayodhya from Sri Lanka. People were really happy to them after fourteen years of banishment. It was celebration time for all. They lit their homes with diyas and made delicacies to welcome them.
The Pandavas returned to Hastinapur after finishing their exile period imposed by Kauravas. People expressed their happiness by lighting the diyas on their homecoming.
Who all celebrate Diwali?
Hindus, Jains, Sikhs and some Buddhist sects celebrate Diwali. Hindus celebrate Diwali from Ramayana and Mahabharata era. Jains celebrate Diwali because the last of all the 24 Tirthankara, Mahavira, attained Niravana . Lighting of diyas by Jains signifies the dispelling of ignorance and welcoming the ultimate truth of enlightment. They follow the centuries old tradition of lighting diyas to celebrate this day.
For Sikhs, this day is auspicious as their sixth holy guru was released from prison by emperor Jahangir. The return of their guru Hargobind Singh was celebrated by lighting up the Golden temple in Amritsar. Sikhs celebrate this day every year as Diwali.
Buddhist of Kathmandu who practice Varjayana Buddhism celebrate Diwali, though it is not a mainstream festival of Buddhism.
When is Diwali celebrated?
Diwali is celebrated on the Amavasya - the new moon day of the Karthik month of Hindu lunar calendar. It normally comes in October or November as the winter season sets in India. Diwali celebrated by different religions echoes the same sentiments of happiness and joy.
Since ancient times, people of Indian subcontinent lit diyas to mark special days. This tradition of lighting diyas on Diwali is centuries old as it has been mentioned in the records of the foreign travelers visiting India in the past. Persian historian Al Beruni (11th century) and Venetian merchant, traveler and trader Nicolo de Conti (15th century) had mentioned about Diwali celebrations when they came to India.
Where is Diwali celebrated?
Diwali is not only celebrated in India, but in almost all continents except Antarctica.
In Australia, it has been more than 2 decades Diwali is celebrated with great enthusiasm. Indian Culture including traditional dance, music and food are the major attractions. Many sociocultural events are held. Large scale Diwali fairs and carnivals are held in Melbourne and Sydney. Fireworks are burst with great zeal.
In South America’s Guyana, there is a national holiday on Diwali. 33% of its population are Hindu.
In North America, Diwali is celebrated by the Indian communities. Utah in the US has proclaimed Diwali as their state festival.
In 2016 Diwali was celebrated in the European parliament organized by the Hindu community. The various Hindu, Jain and Sikh temples are major attractions for the people in Europe during Diwali time.
South African countries of Trinidad and Tobayo also has Indians celebrate Diwali with zeal and festivities.
Many Asian countries besides India and Nepal celebrate Diwali. Bali, Indonesia is famous for Diwali celebrations. Malaysia and Sri Lanka also observe this festival of lights.
Lakhsmi and Ganesh idols
How is Diwali celebrated?
Actually Diwali is five days’ celebrations. It starts with the festival of Dhanteras. Dhanvantari – the Lord of good health having the knowledge of Ayurveda, is worshipped. On this day people buy gold, silver and other valuable items.
The second day is celebrated as Naraka Chaturdashi in south India and Choti Diwali in north India. The world was liberated from the evils of demon Narakasura who was killed by Lord Krishna on this day. People take ritualistic oil massage and do special Pooja after taking bath. New clothes are worn and crackers are burst. The houses are decorated with diyas and lightings.
On the third day, Goddess of wealth Lakshmi along with Lord Ganesha, the God of prosperity, are worshipped. In many parts of India, this is a new financial year for the business organizations. Old account ledgers are replaced with new ones by Hindus and Jain businessmen.
Govardhan Pooja is observed on the fourth day. It is said that Lord Krishna, lifted the Govardhana hill on his little finger to save his people from Indra’s wrath. In a few states of India instruments, arms and machinery are cleaned and worshipped. People anoint cows and worship them as they are considered holy animals. On this day Bali Padyami is celebrated. The benevolent king Bali was granted a boon by Lord Vishnu who came to him as Vamana that he could come to earth on this day to be worshipped by his people.
The fifth and the last is dedicated to the love of brothers and sisters called Bhai Dooj. Sisters pray for long and healthy lives for their brothers and get gifts from them in return. The Kayastha community worship Lord Chitrgupta on this day. He is responsible for keeping the karmic accounts of every individual. According to their karmas, he allocates the souls heaven or hell after the death of the body.
Rangoli design made by fruits
The most adored festival of India, Diwali touches the lives of all Indians. There is surge in economy as people do a lot of Diwali shopping. It gives a break from monotonous lives. This is the happiest time for all ages celebrating Diwali.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Punam Sinha Shreyasi on October 31, 2020:
Very comprehensive description of Diwali. Got to know how world celebrates Diwali. Good job
Ishita on October 31, 2020:
Ashna on October 31, 2020:
Amazing! Got to learn loads.