This Friday sees the start of the annual celebration of Diwali. What is Diwali and what is its significance?
When is Diwali?
The date of Diwali is set by the Hindu calendar and so it varies in the Western calendar. It usually falls in October or November. This year Diwali night is on Friday 9th November and the festival carries on for five days. Friday 9th is also New Year’s Eve for Hindus around the world.
What is Diwali?
Diwali is a Hindu festival. It’s known as the ‘festival of lights’ and is also celebrated by Jains and Sikhs, although each faith has a different reason for celebrating it. Originally the name of the festival comes from the Sanskrit word ‘dipavali’, meaning row of lights.
As you would expect fromh a festival of lights there are a lot of fireworks and lights involved. Children love it and it really is a family experience. It is also a time for spring cleaning the home and also wearing new clothes! Gifts are also exchanged including sweets and dried fruit. These days Diwali is also an excuse to shop and many worry about the commercialism taking over from the spiritual side of the festival.
There are many Indian legends associated with the festival and some are slightly different than others. In general though, it is said that the festival celebrates the victory of good over evil, light over darkness and knowledge over ignorance. Sometimes business men even use the date of Diwali to start a new financial year because of the festival’s association with the goddess of wealth. Like many other religious celebrations it all basically translates as an excuse to celebrate life!
Many people will fast and pray during the festival and use it as a time to think about their lives and gain spiritual insight. Find out more about what happens each day.
During Diwali you will see houses, shops and buildings decorated with rows of lights. Fireworks are also a big part of the Diwali celebrations! Families will visit each other and many will have gatherings and social events.
If you went to India as well as electric lights you would see oil lamps called divas. At the river Ganges in India, a holy river for Hindus you will often see oil lamps floating along the river – it is regarded as a good omen if a lamp manages to get all the way across.
Many gods and goddesses are celebrated during Diwali and the festival is laden with traditions that derive from legends and religious beliefs. In particular Diwali celebrates t he return of Rama and Sita to Ayodhya after their 14 year exile, and also celebrates the day the goddess Durga destroyed a demon called Mahisha.
It is also thought that the lights help the goddess Lakshmi – the goddess of wealth, find her way into people’s homes. The goddess Kali who represents rebirth is also celebrated by some.
If you are celebrating this weekend why not write to us and let us know how you celebrated ? The best emails will be printed in the pages of n2k. Happy celebrations!