Festival of Lights: Countless Smiles & New Beginnings

Festival of Lights: Countless Smiles & New Beginnings

Festival of Lights: Countless Smiles & New Beginnings

Diwali, Deepavali or the festival of lights as it is known globally is considered the grandest occasion for celebration by Hindus, Sikhs and Jains across the Indian Subcontinent and beyond. Diwali is one of the most well-known Hindu holidays representing the victory of light over darkness, spiritual good over evil and the end of ignorance over knowledge.

Diwali is a holy day to celebrate the return of the god prince Shri Rama, his wife Sita and his brother Laxmana, from their 14 year ‘Vanavasa’ or exile. The Ramayana is an epic chronicling Lord Rama’s journey, trials and tribulations. They returned to their home kingdom of Ayodhya after their victory over Ravana the ‘rakshasa’ king of the island of Lanka.

To celebrate the return of Lord Rama, people decorate their homes, surroundings and places of business with diyas (lamps) and rangolis (colorful patterns and decorations on the floor) in order to ward off evil-eyes and dark souls and extend a warm and cheerful welcome to the promised one’s victorious return.

People dress their best for Diwali and offer Lakshmi puja to honor the goddess of riches and success - apart from attending family feasts where sweets and presents are exchanged, in recent decades people have been lighting fireworks too.

The festival is also frequently associated with ‘Lakshmi’ the goddess of prosperity and ‘Ganesha’, the god of wisdom. Several communities additionally celebrate Kaali Puja paying obeisance to the Goddess of Destruction during this time.

Diwali is typically observed twenty days after Vijayadashami or Dussehra. Dhanteras, which is also called by other regional names, marks the festival's opening day when people start to prepare for Diwali by cleansing their homes, decorating surroundings and creating rangoli art.

In some parts of India, Govatsa Dwadashi marks the beginning of Diwali celebrations the day before Dhanteras. The second day is observed as Naraka Chaturdashi. Lakshmi Puja is observed on the third day, which is also the darkest night of the month and is a new moon day. The day following Lakshmi Puja is observed in various regions of India with the Govardhan Puja and Balipratipada or Padwa.

Bhai Dooj, Bhau-Beej or Bhai Phonta is celebrated in India, Nepal and other countries on the second lunar day of the Shukla Paksha (bright fortnight) of the Kartika month. After the five day long celebrations of Diwali or Tihar festival, Sisters pray to God for the well-being and longevity of their brothers against all the evils and bad fortune. In return, brothers reaffirm their responsibilities of caring-for and loving their sisters.

Other Hindu and Sikh craft communities observe Vishwakarma Puja on this day to honor the craftsman deity and the divine architect. Some traditions recognize Diwali as the day Lord Krishna defeated the demon king Narakasura and for some regions of India, it also coincides with the Hindu New Year. Most people celebrate more generally as a time to gather with friends and family, feasting and looking forward to the year ahead.


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