Diwali, or Deepavali, is among India’s most important yearly holidays. Also known as the Hindu festival of lights, the name Diwali originates from the row of clay lamps that are lit outside homes during the celebration to symbolize the inner light protecting from darkness.
Deepa (lamp) + Avali (row) = Diwali or Deepavali
During Diawli, you’ll notice a row of colorfully lit clay lamps, or diyas, outside of the homes of those celebrating. In the streets, you’ll notice festive lighting decorations, with many gathering to sing and dance. Fireworks are also used in the festivities to help scare away evil spirits and celebrate the victory of good vs evil.
Similar to celebrating a New Year, Diwali also represents a fresh start for many. During the days of Diwali, observers will renovate, clean, and buy new decorations for their homes or new garments to wear. It is also recognized as a time to forgive, make peace, drop grudges, and settle outstanding debts. Family reunions are also common during this time to get back in touch with loved ones who may have lost contact.
There are several religions that recognize Diwali and observe a specific origin for the holiday. One of the main stories in Hindu mythology recognizes Diwali as the day that Lord Rama, his wife Sita Devi and his brother Lakshmana returned to their homeland after 14 years in exile and defeating the demon king, Ravana. When they returned, the villagers of their home lit a path for Rama, which is why diyas are lit during Diwali today.
An alternative Diwali story, also originating from Hindu mythology, says that Diwali marks the day that Lord Krishna defeated the demon Narakasura to free the people of his kingdom. After the defeat, Krishna declared the day a celebration, which is why in some parts of India, people will burn statues of the demons in both stories.
The Hindu Goddess Lakshmi is also celebrated during Diwali, symbolizing prosperity, fertility, and wealth. The story goes that on the night of Diwali, Lakshmi chose Lord Vishnu, one of the most important deities in Hinduism, as her husband.
Diwali is typically held during October or November and marks the beginning of the fiscal year in India. It is determined by the Indian calendar and the dates of celebration change every year.
In 2022, Diwali will begin on October 22, and end on October 26. Here is the schedule for Diwali 2022:
Diwali is celebrated over a span of 5 days, with each day consisting of a different observed activity. Here is the breakdown of the activities:
It is common to give gifts during Diwali to celebrate, including presents, money, and food. A very common tradition is gifting sweets, or mithai, along with other Indian treats suchs as ladoos, jalebis, barfis, and pedas.
Other gift ideas include:
Meals are often shared during Diwali, so expensive meals or homemade foods are a common offering. However, if you are overseas from your family, a great idea is to send money to friends and family.
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Deepavalee mubarak ho!
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