Celebrating The Festival Of Lights

New Delhi: One of the most significant festivals in Indian culture, Diwali, the festival of lights, sees millions attend firework displays, prayers and celebratory events across the world every autumn.

The festival marks the victory of good over evil and is the most widely celebrated festival in India. Diwali or Deepavali is spread across six days in various parts of the country. This year, the main Diwali festival falls on October 23. 

With the onset of autumn, i.e. between October and November, Hindu communities across the world start preparing for the celebrations with much enthusiasm. Before the beginning of this festival, people clean their homes and decorate it with the ceremonial lighting of earthen lamps or diyas.

Apart from lining up the entire house with beautiful diyas and candles, people burst firecrackers. Worshippers of Lakshmi embellish their houses with lights and flowers, arrange for social events and distribute sweets among friends and family.

Owing to India’s cultural diversity, the festival gets a distinct regional touch in different parts of the country.

In north India, people celebrate Diwali to mark the victory of Lord Ram over demon King Ravana and his return to Ayodhya with his wife Sita and brother Lakhsman after 14 years of exile.

Among the Sikhs, the festival of lights hold a special importance. On this day, the sixth Guru Shri Hargobind Singh Ji, who was held captive under Mughal emperor Jahangir, returned to Amritsar.

In the south, the festival is called Deepavali and marks the defeat of demon Narakasura. During Diwali, Lord Vishnu and Goddess Lakshmi are worshipped.

The festival also holds a special importance to farmers across the country. Diwali marks the end of the harvest season, which is why the farmers celebrate it.

Not only in India, but Hindus outside the country, too, celebrate the Diwali with much fanfare. Nepal, Sri Lanka, Mauritius, Singapore, Malaysia, the Caribbean and Fiji islands are among a few nations that celebrate Diwali.

Here is a brief account of the significance of Diwali:

First day is called Dhanteras. For several Hindus, the festival begins with Dhanteras. The word Dhan means money and Teras means 13th. Dhanteras is celebrated on the 13th day of the Hindu calendar Ashvin. On this day, people worship goddess Lakshmi.

Second day is called Choti Diwali. The 14th day of the Hindu calendar is called Kali chaudas in north and on this day, people take bath and massage their bodies with scented oils. In south it is called as Naraka Chaturdashi, the day the wicked demon Narakasura was killed.

Third day is the main day – Lakhsmi Puja – and is celebrated throughout India. Lakshmi Puja falls on the 15th day i.e. on full Moon. On this day Goddess Lakshmi and the broom are worshipped. Broom is also worshipped because it helps keep the house clean.

On the fourth day Padwa and Govardhan Puju take place in country, while for several people it marks the start of the New Year, especially in Gujarat.

Bhai Duj is celebrated on the fifth day. It also marks the end of the six-day long Diwali festival in India. On Bhai Duj, sisters pray for their brother’s happy lives.

How is Diwali celebrated?

The festival is marked by large firework displays, to remember the celebrations which, according to the legend, took place upon Rama’s return as locals set off their own version of fireworks. Those celebrating the festival also light traditional earthen diyas (candles) and decorate their houses with colourful rangoli artworks – patterns created on the floor using coloured rice or powder. During Diwali, families and friends share sweets and gifts and there is also a strong belief in giving food and goods to those in need. It is also traditional for homes to be cleaned and new clothes to be worn at the time of the festival.

The food most closely associated with the festival is Indian sweets, which come in a range of colours and flavours. The celebration however features various rich savoury and sweet dishes, and while eating out is popular, families will mostly prepare food at home for when guests arrive to exchange gifts and watch fireworks. Unlike the traditional roast turkey at Christmas, each family celebrating Diwali will more than likely have its own favourite meal for the festival, and the food will most often play a central theme to the celebrations.


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