Diwali दिवाली / Deepawali दीपावली, the Festival of lights

Diwali, also known as Deepawali, is a five-day-long Hindu festival celebrated across the world in unique and colorful ways. Diwali is an official holiday among Hindu communities in countries such as India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Mauritius, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Suriname, Malaysia, Singapore, and Fiji. The festival is as important to Hindus as the Christmas holiday is to Christians. 

Diwali is an annual festival of lights that is celebrated by millions of Hindus, Sikhs, and Jains all over the world. The preparations and rituals typically extend over a period of five days. The festival is observed according to the lunar calendar, the height of which is celebrated on the third day coinciding with the darkest night of the lunar month and ushers in new beginnings just before the arrival of the new moon.

The festival gets its name from the Sanskrit word Deepavali / दीपावाली meaning “rows of lighted lamps”. On Diwali, celebrants light dozens of candles, oil lanterns, and clay lamps known as diyas 🪔 and place them throughout their homes. It is considered an auspicious occasion with one of its core messages being the ”victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance.

Significance across different cultures 

Since Diwali is celebrated by so many people across the world – stories, traditions, and rituals vary across different countries and faiths, however, they all honor the same overarching essence: that good triumphs over evil.

Most Hindus offer prayers to Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth and prosperity, and Ganesh, the Hindu deity representing good fortune and wisdom. During the festival, offerings such as sweetmeats, dried fruits, and nuts are placed in front of deities to appease them. In Nepal, it is better known as Tihar, but unlike the Indian festival, each of the five days holds its own significance which includes celebration and worship of the four creatures – crow, dog, cow, and bull, associated with the Hindu god of death ‘Yama’. The final and most important day, called Bhai Tika, is dedicated to brothers and sisters.

Traditions and food

In the weeks leading up to Diwali, people usually clean and decorate their houses, buy new clothes and ornaments made of gold or silver as they are thought to summon riches and abundance. In preparation for Diwali, families decorate their homes with colorful flowers and elaborate designs of rangoli which are vibrant patterns created on the floor with the intention to welcome Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth and prosperity. They also illuminate their homes with diyas, candles, and lanterns, all of which are done with the belief that grand displays of lights would scare away the darkness or evil spirits.

The aim is to attract Lakshmi’s attention and guide her towards one’s home to bestow blessings for the year ahead.  Following the prayers and ceremonies, there are fireworks and a big feast with lots of sweet and savory traditional delicacies, where families come together and exchange gifts.

Do you or your friends celebrate Diwali? What traditions do you follow for the holiday? Let us know in the comments below — and a very Happy Diwali from Linguajoy to those who celebrate!

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