Public holiday, Sunday, November 12th
Lights, candles, fireworks, sparkle, bling – lights, lights, and more lights!
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Diwali, also known as Deepavali, or Deepawali, is a festival that holds a profound place in the heart of India’s cultural and religious heritage. With a history spanning thousands of years, this ‘Festival of Lights’ is rooted in ancient Indian traditions and mythology.
Diwali, in essence, celebrates the victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance. Its origins can be traced back to various ancient texts, including from northern India the epic Ramayana, which commemorates Lord Rama’s return to Ayodhya after defeating the demon king Ravana, or southern India Lord Krishna defeating the demon Narakasura.
Over the centuries, Diwali has evolved, incorporating regional customs and beliefs, yet its core message of hope, renewal, and the triumph of righteousness remains as vibrant as the millions of lamps that illuminate homes and hearts during this joyous occasion
The Name – Diwali, Deepavali, Deepawali
“Diwali,” “Deepavali,” and “Deepawali” are essentially different spellings and pronunciations of the same festival, and they refer to the same celebration. The differences among these terms are primarily regional and linguistic. Here’s a breakdown:
- Diwali: This is the most common and widely recognized term for the festival, and it is commonly used in North India and by people from the Hindi-speaking community. It’s also the spelling most commonly used in English. We will use this form throughout the article.
- Deepavali: “Deepavali”, meaning row of lights, is a variant of the term that is commonly used in South India and by speakers of Dravidian languages like Tamil, Kannada, and Telugu.
- Deepawali: “Deepawali” is another regional variation, and it’s often used in parts of India, including Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, where the pronunciation differs slightly from “Diwali.”
The choice of term typically depends on the region and the language spoken in that area, but the festival’s significance and customs remain largely the same across India.
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5 Days of Diwali
Diwali festivities of India are a reflection of its cultural diversity and a reflection of its unity. Even though this is primarily a Hindu celebration the season is enjoyed by Christians, Jains, Muslims, Sikhs, and other religions. Diwali is a beautiful time of the year that most people look forward to.
Food, cultural dress, lights, and sweets make the festival a favorite amongst all age groups. Below we discuss the highlights of the Diwali week and common rituals. Diwali doesn’t have a specific date, but, the day it is celebrated is the darkest day of the month; falling on a new moon day or Amavasya. In the Hindu calendar, Diwali marks the 15th day of the month of Kartik (usually occurring in October or November).
Diwali, the Festival of Lights, is typically celebrated over a period of five days, with each day having its own significance and rituals. Here are the five days of Diwali:
Day 1: Dhanteras (Dhanatrayodashi):
- Dhanteras marks the beginning of the Diwali celebrations.
- It is dedicated to wealth and prosperity, and people often buy new utensils, jewelry, or other items on this day (metals).
- Devotees also worship Lord Dhanvantari, the god of Ayurveda, seeking good health.
Day 2: Naraka Chaturdashi (Choti Diwali):
- On this day, Lord Krishna is believed to have defeated the demon Narakasura, symbolizing the victory of good over evil.
- People wake up before dawn, take an oil bath, and wear new clothes.
- In some regions, small oil lamps are lit to symbolize the vanquishing of darkness.
Day 3: Diwali (Deepavali):
- The main day of Diwali is when people light oil lamps and candles to illuminate their homes, symbolizing the triumph of light over darkness.
- Families gather for a special puja (prayer) to worship Goddess Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity, and Lord Ganesha, the remover of obstacles.
- Fireworks and the exchange of gifts are also common on this day.
Day 4: Govardhan Puja (Annakut):
- Govardhan Puja is dedicated to Lord Krishna, commemorating the lifting of the Govardhan Hill by Lord Krishna to protect the people from heavy rains.
- In some regions, a mound of cow dung is shaped to resemble the Govardhan Hill.
- Devotees prepare a variety of vegetarian dishes and offer them to the deities in gratitude for the harvest.
Day 5: Bhai Dooj (Bhau Beej):
- Bhai Dooj is a day to celebrate the bond between brothers and sisters.
- Sisters perform a special puja for their brothers and apply a tika (vermilion mark) on their foreheads.
- Brothers give gifts to their sisters as a gesture of love and protection.
These five days of Diwali are a time of joy, spirituality, family gatherings, and the renewal of bonds and relationships. The specific customs and traditions may vary across different regions of India, but the overall theme of celebrating light, prosperity, and the victory of good over evil is common to all.
12 Activities for Diwali
Diwali is a time of profound significance and delightful customs. Families come together for prayer, feasting, and the exchange of blessings, while the night sky comes alive with fireworks, symbolizing the victory of light over darkness. Here, we explore some of the traditional activities that make Diwali a truly enchanting and inclusive celebration.
- Cleaning and Decoration: Before Diwali, people thoroughly clean their homes and workplaces to welcome the goddess of wealth, Lakshmi, and to rid their surroundings of negativity. Homes are decorated with oil lamps (diyas), candles, colorful rangoli patterns, and decorative lights.
- Lighting Oil Lamps (Diyas): Lighting diyas is one of the most important rituals of Diwali. These oil lamps are placed at entrances, windows, balconies, and throughout the house to symbolize the triumph of light over darkness and the dispelling of ignorance.
- Rangoli: Create beautiful rangoli designs at the entrance of your home. Rangoli is made using colored powders, rice flour, flower petals, or colored sand. It’s a way to invite guests and add color to your home.
- Worship and Puja: On Diwali night, families gather for puja (prayers) to seek blessings from deities, especially Lord Ganesha (the remover of obstacles) and Goddess Lakshmi (the goddess of wealth and prosperity). Temples are also beautifully decorated and hold special prayers.
- Exchange of Gifts: Exchanging gifts is a common tradition during Diwali. Families and friends exchange sweets, dry fruits, and various presents as a gesture of love and goodwill.
- Fireworks and Firecrackers: Fireworks are a popular way to celebrate Diwali, symbolizing the victory of light over darkness. However, in recent years, there has been growing concern about the environmental and safety impacts of firecrackers, so consider celebrating with eco-friendly options or limiting their use.
- Feasting: Diwali is a time for indulging in delicious sweets and savory snacks. Special Diwali sweets like ladoos, jalebis, and barfis are prepared at home, and families often share these treats with neighbors and friends. (Check out our Coconut Ladoo Recipe – https://thecultureties.com/coconut-ladoo)
- Visiting Relatives and Friends: Diwali is a time for social gatherings. People visit the homes of relatives and friends to exchange greetings, gifts, and blessings.
- New Clothes: It’s customary to wear new clothes on Diwali. Families often buy new outfits for themselves and their children to mark the occasion.
- Charity: Diwali also emphasizes the importance of giving and helping those in need. Many people donate to charity, distribute food to the less fortunate, and perform acts of kindness during this time.
- Lakshmi Puja and Aarti: The evening of Diwali is a time for a special Lakshmi puja and aarti (prayer and ritual) performed with devotion to seek the goddess’s blessings for prosperity and well-being.
- Family Time: Most importantly, Diwali is a time for families to come together, celebrate, and strengthen their bonds.
Remember that Diwali is a time for joy and togetherness, so enjoy the festivities with your loved ones while respecting the traditions and customs that are important to you and your community. Additionally, consider the environmental impact of your celebrations and opt for eco-friendly practices wherever possible.
For further information check out the Hindu American Foundation’s Diwali Toolkit, which is great for children – https://www.hinduamerican.org/diwali-toolkit
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