What is Diwali?
Diwali, or Dipawali, is India's biggest and most important holiday of the year. The festival gets its name from the row (avali) of clay lamps (deepa) that Indians light outside their homes to symbolize the inner light that protects from spiritual darkness. This festival is as important to Hindus as the Christmas holiday is to Christians.
Over the centuries, Diwali has become a national festival that's also enjoyed by non-Hindu communities. For instance, in Jainism, Diwali marks the nirvana, or spiritual awakening, of Lord Mahavira on October 15, 527 B.C.; in Sikhism, it honors the day that Guru Hargobind Ji, the Sixth Sikh Guru, was freed from imprisonment. Buddhists in India celebrate Diwali as well.
Where does the name Diwali come from?
The word Diwali comes from the Sanskrit word deepavali, meaning "rows of lighted lamps".
Houses, shops and public places are decorated with small oil lamps called diyas. People also enjoy fireworks and sweets too, so it's really popular with children.
In northern India, they celebrate the story of King Rama's return to Ayodhya after he defeated Ravana by lighting rows of clay lamps. Southern India celebrates it as the day that Lord Krishna defeated the demon Narakasura. In western India the festival marks the day that Lord Vishnu, the Preserver (one of the main gods of the Hindu trinity) sent the demon King Bali to rule the nether world.
When is Diwali?
The festival is usually some time between October and November, with the date changing each year. In 2020 it begins on Thursday 12 November and lasts for five days, with the main day of celebrations taking place on Saturday 14 November.
How to celebrate Diwali?
‘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, lamps, lights and rangolis.
Diwali is celebrated over 5 days.
DAY ONE: People clean their homes and shop for gold or kitchen utensils to help bring good fortune.
DAY TWO: People decorate their homes with clay lamps and create design patterns called rangoli on the floor using colored powders or sand.
DAY THREE: On the main day of the festival, families gather together for Lakshmi puja, a prayer to Goddess Lakshmi, followed by mouth-watering feasts and firework festivities.
DAY FOUR: This is the first day of the new year, when friends and relatives visit with gifts and best wishes for the season.
DAY FIVE: Brothers visit their married sisters, who welcome them with love and a lavish meal.