Diwali is known as the “Festival of Lights” and is a Hindu holiday widely celebrated in India, in South Asia, and across the Hindu Diaspora.
The word ‘Diwali’ derives from Sanskrit and means “a row of lights.” Festivities include the illumination of lights, candles, firecrackers, and diya (clay lamps) to symbolize the victory of good over evil, inner light over spiritual darkness, and knowledge over ignorance. Diwali is a time for gathering with loved ones, celebrating life, and committing to making the right decisions in life.
Diwali is celebrated by Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, Buddhists, and people of Indian heritage and non-Indian heritage. Despite each faith having its own historical legends and celebratory events, the holiday represents the same symbolic victory of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, and good over evil.
Celebrations can take place at home, in mandirs (local temples), community centers, and other gathering places. Diwali is celebrated by people around the globe.
Many Hindus recognize Diwali as a day celebrating the return of Prince Rama of Ayodhya, his wife Sita, and brother Lakshman after 14 years of exile. Prince Rama is considered to be an incarnation of Lord Vishnu and an embodiment of dharma or righteousness; and Sita is an incarnation of Lakshmi, who is the Goddess of wealth and prosperity. The residents of Ayodhya were overjoyed at the return of their rightful King and lit lamps in his honor. Thus, the entire city looked like a row of lights.
Other Hindus commemorate Diwali as the day Lord Krishna defeated the demon king Narakasura. For some regions of India, Diwali coincides with the Hindu New Year.
Ever since, people light lamps at Diwali to remember that light triumphs over dark, knowledge prevails over ignorance, and good triumphs over evil.
Diwali is one of the most widely celebrated Hindu festivals in India and around the world. The rituals and customs associated with celebrating Diwali vary based on the regional traditions of India and the cultural customs that are popular in those areas. However, most families light diyas or candles in their homes and celebrate this special holiday by enjoying sweets and delicious food. Generally, Diwali is celebrated over five days with each day holding a special significance.
Day 1: Dhanteras
On this day, many dedicate their worship to Goddess Lakshmi. People will clean the house, make rangolis or kolam (colored patterns made on the floor with flowers, powder, rice or sand), go shopping, and make sweet and savory Indian treats.
Day 2: Chhoti Diwali, Kalichaudas
This day is referred to as small Diwali and people will decorate their homes with rangoli, and clay lamps are displayed.
Day 3: Diwali
People dress in new clothes, visit the temple to perform a puja (a worship service) for Goddess Lakshmi and Lord Ganesh, light diyas around the house, keep all the lights on, eat delicious food and sweets, and enjoy fireworks celebrations with family and friends.
Day 4: Annakut, Padwa, Govardhan Puja
This is the first day of the new year for many regions and people celebrate by exchanging gifts and best wishes. Many will take time to be grateful for all of what they have and to share with others.
Day 5: Bhai Duj, Bhai Bheej
This day is dedicated as a siblings day to honor sister-brother bonds. It is common for all siblings to get together on this day. Brothers will visit their sisters and enjoy a nice meal together.