Diwali, also known as Deepawali, is a Hindu celebration also known as the festival of lights. It celebrates light defeating dark and good defeating evil. Diwali is a happy celebration that is the most important holiday of the year in India and is a public holiday there and in many other parts of the world.
It is celebrated on the new moon night of the month of Kartik on the Hindu calendar. This is significant because it is the darkest night of the month. Diwali is all about banishing darkness with light, so this day of darkness becomes a day of light, lit up with candles, lanterns, and fireworks. Celebrations often last for five days beginning two days before Diwali and ending two days after. This period is a time for new beginnings and fresh starts, so people will often clean and decorate their houses as part of the celebration. Shopping is also a tradition in countries that celebrate Diwali publically. Sales are widespread, so people often shop for many items including gifts, as gift giving is another important tradition. The religious and spiritual significance of Diwali varies based on location and belief system, but the symbolism is the same celebration of victory of light, good, knowledge, hope and happiness.
History of Diwali
Every year around October and November, Hindus around the world celebrate the biggest festival in India known as Diwali or Deepavali. Diwali is a five days Hindu festival which is believed by people to be around 2500 years old. Diwali is also known as the festival of lights and is marked as the biggest festival in India.
Like other Hindu festivals, many stories revolve around Diwali and why people celebrate it. The celebrations of Diwali mark the victory of good over evil. Religious texts, paintings, etc describes many stories related to the occasion of Diwali but it is very difficult to state which text came first or how long before the celebrations of Diwali started. In Northern India, the majority of people believe in the tale of God Rama (one of the incarnations of God Vishnu). This story has been obtained from a very famous story of Ramayana. This story is about a king in Ayodha who had three wives and four sons- Rama, Lakshmana, Bharata, and Shatrughana. Rama was always considered to be the perfect son among all of them. Rama got married to Sita the princess of a nearby kingdom. Bharata's mother one day ask Rama to be exiled for 14 years and her son Bharatabe made crown prince instead.
The kind had no choice and he sent Rama to leave for the exile. Sita and Lakshmana did not leave Rama's side and followed him to the forest. Suddenly, Surphanaka, a female demoness tried to kill Sita but Lakshmana wounded her instead. To take avenge from Lakshamana she asked her brother Khara to kill Sita but Rama and Lakshamana killed all of the Khara army. But one of the soldiers was alive who went to the different kingdom known as Lanka to ask Ravana to take avenge his sister Surphanaka. Ravana with the help of his magic and tricks abducted Sita and took her to Lanka. While Rama and Lakshmana were searching for Sita, They met Hanuman who became the devotee of Rama. Hanuman pledged that he will find Sita and will help Rama to get her back. In search of Sita, Hanuman flew to Lanka and found Sita imprisoned by the Demon Ravana.
Hanuman met Sita and told her that Rama and Lakshmana are coming to help you. He burnt the Ravana kingdom before flying back to Rama. Thereafter, Rama, Lakshaman and Vanar army built a causeway from the tip of India to Lanka. They traveled to Lanka where they killed ten-headed demon Ravana and his two brothers to get back Sita. As Rama and Sita returned to the north, millions of people lit lights, Diyas (Gave) across the city of Ayodhya just to help them to come back home and to welcome them after the victory over the Demon Ravana. Lighting houses with Diyas, candles, lamps, light strings have been a custom to celebrate the occasion of Diwali for years now.
In south India, the Majority of people believe in the story of Lord Krishna ( also considered to be an incarnation of Lord Vishnu) in which Krishna saved lives of 16000 women from another evil king. In Bengal, people celebrate Diwali in the worship of mother Kali, the dark Goddess of strength while in Jainism, Diwali signifies the event of Lord Mahavira attaining the eternal bliss of Nirvana.
Some people also believe it to be the celebration of the marriage of Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth with Lord Vishnu.
The Four Days of Diwali
Each day of Diwali is considered to be very important and each signifies the victory of good over evil with different stories. The first day of Diwali, Naraka Chaturdasi marks the vanquishing of the demon Naraka by Lord Krishna and his wife Satyabhama.
The second day of the festival is known as Amavasya, the second day of Diwali. This day marks the worship of Goddess Lakshmi when she was in her most benevolent mood, fulfilling the wishes of her devotees. Amavasya also tells the story of Lord Vishnu, who, in his dwarf incarnation, vanquished the tyrant Bali and banished him to hell. Bali was allowed to return to earth once a year to light millions of lamps and dispel darkness and ignorance while spreading the radiance of love and wisdom.
On the third day of the Festival, Kartika Shuddha Padyami states that Bali steps out of hell and rules the earth according to the boon given by the Lord Vishnu.The fourth day marks the celebration Bhai Dooj, on this day sisters invite their brother to their home, do puja to well wish for their brothers and gives them gifts as well.
Some people also believe that Diwali is not a four but a five-day festival because they include the festival of Dhanteras where Dhan means wealth and Teras means 13th. There is also a tradition that Hindus gamble with their family and friends because it is believed that Goddess Parvati played dice with her husband Lord Shiva. It is believed that whosoever does gambling on Diwali night, he or she would prosper throughout the ensuing year.