Diwali – A Festival of Lights

What is Diwali and why is it celebrated and by who?

Diwali is an Indian Festival – It is the Festival of Lights commemorated all over the world by Hindus, Sikhs and Jains, Diwali falls on a different date each year, depending on the position of the moon. It lasts for five days and is one of the most popular Hindu festivals. Known as the ‘festival of lights’, the date is celebrated every year in the autumn in the northern hemisphere, and spring in the southern hemisphere.

One of the major festivals of Hinduism, it spiritually signifies the victory of light over darkness and good over evil. The word ‘Diwali’ means rows of lighted lamps and it is known as the ‘festival of lights’ because houses and shops are decorated with candles and colourful lights during the week. For many people, Diwali honours Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and fertility. The new business year will start, for many, at Diwali, and some will say prayers to the goddess for a prosperous year ahead. In Jainism, it marks the spiritual awakening of Lord Mahavira. For Sikhs, it marks the day that Guru Hargobind Ji, the Sixth Sikh Guru.

How to celebrate the festival of light

‘Cleanliness is next to Godliness’ and none can explain this better than people who celebrate Diwali. The preparation for this grand festival starts much ahead with people cleaning their houses and offices. Then they decorate their places with flowers, light traditional earthen candles called diyas, lamps, lights and colourful rangolis (a colourful design made on the floor near the entrance to a house to welcome guests).

How do you celebrate the festival?

Like all other festivals in India, food too plays an essential role in Diwali. From delicious sweets or delectable savouries, every household prepares a fare worth feeding a kingdom. A lot of people also gift sweets to their friends and families to wish them luck and prosperity for the coming days.

The celebration starts with people buying jewellery and utensils on Dhanteras (occasion celebrating day of fortune). This is an auspicious occasion to buy any kind of metal as it is believed to ward off evil and bring in prosperity.

The next two days—Chhoti (meaning small, is celebrated to rejoice the victory of goodness and the defeat of greed) Diwali and Diwali—are the most-awaited days of the festival when people enjoy the most. The evening starts after performing puja and offering prayers to the gods. People then light diyas and burst crackers. The entire atmosphere reverberates in a festive note. On the fourth day, Govardhan puja (a ritual where devotees prepare and offer a large variety of vegetarian food to God as a mark of gratitude) and the festival of lights ends with Bhai Dooj, which is very similar to Raksha Bandhan as it is a celebration of love between a brother and sister.

Although it is a tradition to burst crackers on Diwali, celebrating Diwali in an eco-friendly way in more modern times is more respectful to nature. Instead of bursting crackers, we can light diyas, decorate our house and surroundings with fairy lights and spend a magical evening with friends and family.

Many thanks to Anita Chahal for her contribution to this article.

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