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This article is about the Hindu festival. For the related Jain festival, see Diwali (Jainism).

"Dipavali" and "Deepavali" redirect here. For the related Nepalese festival, see Tihar. For the films, see Deepavali (disambiguation).

Diwali / Deepavali

Rangoli decorations, made using coloured powder or sand, are popular during Diwali.

Also calledDeepavali
Observed byHindus, Sikhs, Jains and Newar Buddhists[1]
TypeCultural, seasonal, religious
CelebrationsDiya and lighting, home decoration, shopping, fireworks, puja (prayers), gifts, performing religious rituals, feast and sweets
BeginsDhanteras, two days before Diwali
EndsBhai Dooj, two days after Diwali
DateVaries per Hindu calendar
2017 date19 October (Thursday)[2]
18 October (Wednesday) in South India[2] & Singapore[3]
Related toKali Puja, Galungan, Diwali (Jainism), Bandi Chhor Divas, Tihar, Swanti

Diwali or Deepavali is the Hindu festival of lights celebrated every year in autumn in the northern hemisphere (spring in southern hemisphere).[4][5] It is an official holiday in Fiji, Guyana, India,[6]Malaysia, Mauritius, Myanmar, Nepal, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago. On the island of Jamaica, it is celebrated proudly by the Indo-Jamaican community, however in 2010 it was inaugurated as an official yearly event at the historic Devon House residence for the first time, in an effort to celebrate the country's Indian heritage on a national level.[7][8] One of the most popular festivals of Hinduism, it spiritually signifies the victory of light over darkness, good over evil, knowledge over ignorance, and hope over despair.[9][10][11] Its celebration includes millions of lights shining on housetops, outside doors and windows, around temples and other buildings in the communities and countries where it is observed.[12] The festival preparations and rituals typically extend over four to six day period. The word Diwali is used by some communities to mean all the festivities while others think of it as one festival night on the no moon day of the Hindu Lunisolar month Kartika in Bikram Sambat calendar (the month of Aippasi in Tamil Calendar). In the Gregorian calendar, Diwali falls in mid-October and mid-November.[13]

Before Diwali, people clean, renovate, and decorate their homes and offices.[14] During Diwali, people dress up in new clothes or their best outfits, light up diyas (lamps and candles) inside and outside their home, participate in family puja (prayers) to Lakshmi – the goddess of prosperity, light fireworks,[15] engage in family feasts, sharing mithai (sweets), and exchange of gifts between family members and close friends. Diwali also marks a major shopping period in nations where it is celebrated.[16]

The name of festive days as well as the rituals of Diwali vary significantly among Hindus, based on the region of India. In many parts of India,[17] the festivities start with Vasubaras, the day for the cattle, followed by Dhanteras or Dhanatrayodashi (in northern and western part of India). Dhanteras is followed by Naraka Chaturdasi and Laxmi Puja. Laxmi Puja on the no moon day is considered the main day of Diwali in some communities. Next day after the no moon day, is Goverdhan pooja in Northern part of the country. On the same day, in some places, Diwali Padva is celebrated which is dedicated to the relationship of wife and husband. The festivities end with Bhai Dooj dedicated to the bond between sister and brother. Dhanteras usually falls eighteen days after Dussehra.

On the same night that Hindus celebrate Diwali, Jains celebrate a festival also called Diwali to mark the attainment of moksha by Mahavira,[18][19]Sikhs celebrate Bandi Chhor Divas to mark the release of Guru Hargobind from a Mughal Empire prison,[20] and Newar Buddhists, unlike the majority of Buddhists, celebrate Diwali by worshipping Lakshmi.[21][22]

Etymology and nomenclature

Diwali festivities include a celebration of sights, sounds, arts and flavors. The festivities vary between different regions.[12][23][24]

Diwali (English:)[4] or Sanskritdīpāvali means "series of lights",[25] and is derived from dīpam "light, lamp" and oli "glow of light". Diwali is also known as dīpotsavam "festival of lights".

The holiday is known as dipawoli in Assamese: দীপাৱলী, dipaboli or dipali in Bengali: দীপাবলি/দীপালি, divāḷi in Gujarati: દિવાળી, divālī in Hindi: दिवाली, dīpavaḷi in Kannada: ದೀಪಾವಳಿ, Konkani: दिवाळी, Malayalam: ദീപാവലി, Marathi: दिवाळी, dipābali in Odia: ଦିପାବଳୀ, dīvālī in Punjabi: ਦੀਵਾਲੀ, diyārī in Sindhi: दियारी‎, tīpāvaḷi in Tamil: தீபாவளி, and Telugu: దీపావళి, Galungan in Balinese and Swanti in Nepali: स्वन्ति or tihar in Nepali: तिहार and Thudar Parba in Tulu: ತುಡರ್ ಪರ್ಬ.

History

Diwali dates back to ancient times in India, as a festival after the summer harvest in the Hindu calendar month of Kartika. The festival is mentioned in Sanskrit texts such as the Padma Purana, the Skanda Purana both completed in second half of 1st millennium AD but believed to have been expanded from a core text from an earlier era. The diyas (lamps) are mentioned in Skanda Purana to symbolically represent parts of the sun, the cosmic giver of light and energy to all life, who seasonally transitions in the Hindu calendar month of Kartik.[23][26]

Hindus in some regions of India associate Diwali with the legend of Yama and Nachiketa on Kartika amavasya (Diwali night).[27] The Nachiketa story about right versus wrong, true wealth versus transient wealth, knowledge versus ignorance is recorded in Katha Upanishad composed in 1st millennium BC.[28]

King Harsha in the 7th century Sanskrit play Nagananda mentions Deepavali as Deepapratipadutsava (Deepa = light, pratipada = first day, utsava = festival), where lamps were lit and newly engaged brides and grooms were given gifts.[29][30]Rajasekhara referred to Deepavali as Dipamalika in his 9th century Kavyamimamsa, wherein he mentions the tradition of homes being whitewashed and oil lamps decorating homes, streets and markets in the night.[29] The Persian traveller and historian Al Biruni, in his 11th century memoir on India, wrote of Deepavali being celebrated by Hindus on New Moon day of the month of Kartika.[31]

Significance

Diwali is one of the happiest holidays in India and Nepal with significant preparations. People clean their homes and decorate them for the festivities. Diwali is one of the biggest shopping seasons in India and Nepal; people buy new clothes for themselves and their families, as well as gifts, appliances, kitchen utensils, even expensive items such as cars and gold jewellery.[32] People also buy gifts for family members and friends which typically include sweets, dry fruits, and seasonal specialties depending on regional harvest and customs. It is also the period when children hear ancient stories, legends about battles between good and evil or light and darkness from their parents and elders. Girls and women go shopping and create rangoli and other creative patterns on floors, near doors and walkways. Youth and adults alike help with lighting and preparing for patakhe (fireworks).[24][33]

There is significant variation in regional practices and rituals. Depending on the region, prayers are offered before one or more deities, with most common being Lakshmi – the goddess of wealth and prosperity. On Diwali night, fireworks light up the neighborhood skies. Later, family members and invited friends celebrate the night over food and sweets.[24][33]

Spiritual significance

Diwali is celebrated by Hindus, Jains, and Sikhs and Newar Buddhists[21] to mark different historical events and stories, but they all symbolise the victory of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, good over evil, hope over despair.[9][10][34]

The mythical stories told for Diwali vary regionally and within the traditions of Hinduism.[35] Yet, they all point to joy and the celebration of Diwali with lights to be a reminder of the importance of knowledge, self inquiry, self-improvement, knowing and seeking the good and the right path. It is a metaphor for resisting evil, for dispelling darkness and for compassion to others.[36] Diwali is the celebration of this inner light over spiritual darkness,[37] of knowledge over ignorance and right over wrong.[38][39] It is a festive restatement of the Hindu belief that the good ultimately triumphs over evil.[40]

Hinduism

The religious significance of Deepavali varies regionally within India, depending on the school of Hindu philosophy, regional, legends, and beliefs.[9][35]

Hindus across the world celebrate Diwali in honor of the return of Lord Rama, wife Sita, brother Lakshmana and lord Hanuman to Ayodhya from exile of 14 years after Rama defeated Ravana. To honor and celebrate Lord Rama, Sita, Lakshmana and Hanuman returning from Sri Lanka and to illuminate their path, villagers light Diyas to celebrate the triumph of good over evil.[41] For some, Diwali also celebrates the return of Pandavas after 12 years of Vanvas and one year of "Agyatavas" in Mahabharata. Furthermore, Deepavali is linked to the celebration of Lakshmi, who is venerated amongst Hindus as the goddess of wealth and prosperity and is the wife of Lord Vishnu. The 5-day festival of Diwali begins on the day Goddess Lakshmi was born from the churning of cosmic ocean of milk by the Devas (gods) and the Asuras (demons); while the night of Diwali is the day Lakshmi chose Vishnu as her husband and they were married.[23][42] Along with Lakshmi, devotees make offerings to Ganesha, who symbolizes ethical beginnings and fearless remover of obstacles; Saraswati, who embodies music, literature and learning and Kubera, who symbolizes book-keeping, treasury and wealth management.[23] Other Hindus believe that Diwali is the day Vishnu came back to Lakshmi and their abode in the Vaikuntha; so those who worship Lakshmi receive the benefit of her good mood, and therefore are blessed with mental, physical and material wellbeing during the year ahead.[43]

Hindus in India's eastern region, such as Odisha and West Bengal, worship the goddess Kali instead of Lakshmi, and call the festival Kali Puja.[44][45] In India's Braj and north central regions, the god Krishna is recognized. People mark Mount Govardhan, and celebrate legends about Krishna. In other regions, the feast of Govardhan Puja (or Annakoot) is celebrated, with 56 or 108 different cuisines prepared, offered to Krishna, then shared and celebrated by the local community.

In West and certain Northern parts of India, the festival of Diwali marks the start of a new Hindu year.

Sikhism

Main article: Bandi Chhor Divas

Diwali for Sikhs marks the Bandi Chhor Divas, when Guru Har Gobind freed himself and some Hindu Rajahs, from the Gwalior Fort, from the prison of the Mughal emperor, Jahangir, and arrived at the Golden Temple in Amritsar. Ever since then, Sikhs celebrate Bandi Choorh Divas, with the annual lighting up of Golden Temple, fireworks and other festivities. In the post-Guru Gobind Singh era, Sarbat Khalsa used to meet on Diwali and Baisakhi to discuss important issues concerning Sikh community.[46]

Jainism

Main article: Diwali (Jainism)

Diwali has special significance in Jainism. Mahavira, the last of the Tirthankar of this era, attained Nirvana on this day at Pavapuri on 15 October 527 BCE, on Kartik Krishna Amavasya. According to the Kalpasutra by AcharyaBhadrabahu, 3rd century BC, many gods were present there, illuminating the darkness.[47] Therefore, Jains celebrate Diwali as a day of remembering Mahavira. On Diwali morning, Nirvan Ladoo is offered after praying to Mahavira in all Jain temples all across the world. Gautam Gandhar Swami, the chief disciple of Mahavira achieved omniscience(Kevala Gyan) later the same day.[citation needed]

Buddhism

The Newar people in Nepal, who are Buddhist and revere various deities in the Vajrayana tradition, celebrate the festival by worshipping Lakshmi.[21][22] The Newar Buddhists in Nepalese valleys celebrate the Diwali festival over five days, in the same way and on the same days as the Hindu Diwali-Tihar festival.[48] According to some scholars, this traditional celebration by Newar Buddhists in Nepal, involving Lakshmi and Vishnu during Diwali, reflects the freedom granted in the Mahayana Buddhism tradition to worship any deity for their worldly betterment.[21]

Description and rituals

Diwali is a five-day festival in many regions of India, with Diwali night centering on the new moon – the darkest night – at the end of the Hindu lunar month of Ashvin and the start of the month of Kartika. In the Common Era calendar, Diwali typically falls towards the end of October, or first half of November each year. The darkest night of autumn lit with diyas, candles and lanterns, makes the festival of lights particularly memorable.[13] Diwali is also a festival of sounds and sights with fireworks and rangoli designs; the festival is a major celebration of flavors with feasts and numerous mithai (sweets, desserts),[25] as well as a festival of emotions where Diwali ritually brings family and friends together every year.[24][33]

Rituals and preparations for Diwali begin days or weeks in advance. The festival formally begins two days before the night of Diwali, and ends two days thereafter. Each day has the following rituals and significance:[23][49][50]

Dhanteras (Day 1)

Main article: Dhanteras

Dhanteras or Dhanatrayodashi (celebrated in Northern and Western part of India) starts off the five day festival. Starting days before and through Dhanteras, houses and business premises are cleaned, renovated and decorated. Women and children decorate entrances with Rangoli – creative colourful floor designs both inside and in the walkways of their homes or offices. Boys and men get busy with external lighting arrangements and completing all renovation work in progress. For some, the day celebrates the churning of cosmic ocean of milk between the forces of good and forces of evil; this day marks the birthday of Lakshmi – the Goddess of Wealth and Prosperity, and the birthday of Dhanvantari – the God of Health and Healing. On the night of Dhanteras, diyas (lamps) are ritually kept burning all through the nights in honor of Lakshmi and Dhanvantari.[23][42][51]

Dhanteras is also a major shopping day, particularly for gold or silver articles. Merchants, traders and retailers stock up, put articles on sale, and prepare for this day. Lakshmi Puja is performed in the evening. Some people decorate their shops, work place or items symbolizing their source of sustenance and prosperity.[citation needed]

Naraka Chaturdasi (Day 2)

Main article: Naraka Chaturdashi

Narak Chaturdasi is the second day of festivities, and is also called Choti Diwali. The Hindu literature narrates that the asura (demon) Narakasura was killed on this day by Krishna, Satyabhama and Kali. The day is celebrated by early morning religious rituals and festivities followed on. This day is commonly celebrated as Diwali in Tamil Nadu, Goa and Karnataka. Typically, house decoration and colourful floor patterns called rangoli are made on or before Narak Chaturdasi. Special bathing rituals such as a fragrant oil bath are held in some regions, followed by minor pujas. Women decorate their hands with henna designs. Families are also busy preparing homemade sweets for main Diwali.

Lakshmi Puja (Day 3)

Main article: Lakshmi Puja

The third day is the main festive day. People wear new clothes or their best outfits as the evening approaches. Then diyas are lit, pujas are offered to Lakshmi, and to one or more additional deities depending on the region of India; typically Ganesha, Saraswati, and Kubera.[23] Lakshmi symbolises wealth and prosperity, and her blessings are invoked for a good year ahead.[52]

Lakshmi is believed to roam the earth on Diwali night. On the evening of Diwali, people open their doors and windows to welcome Lakshmi, and place diya lights on their windowsills and balcony ledges to invite her in. On this day, the mothers who work hard all year, are recognized by the family and she is seen to embody a part of Lakshmi, the good fortune and prosperity of the household.[25] Small earthenware lamps filled with oil are lighted and placed in rows by some Hindus along the parapets of temples and houses. Some set diyas adrift on rivers and streams. Important relationships and friendships are also recognized during the day, by visiting relatives and friends, exchanging gifts and sweets.[10][11][53]

After the puja, people go outside and celebrate by lighting up patakhe (fireworks). The children enjoy sparklers and variety of small fireworks, while adults enjoy playing with ground chakra, Vishnu chakra, flowerpots (anaar), sutli bomb, chocolate bomb, rockets and bigger fireworks.[54] The fireworks signify celebration of Diwali as well a way to chase away evil spirits.[55][56] After fireworks, people head back to a family feast, conversations and mithai (sweets, desserts).[23]

Padwa, Balipratipada (Day 4)

Main article: Balipratipada

The day after Diwali, is celebrated as Padwa. This day ritually celebrates the love and mutual devotion between the wife and husband.[23] The husbands give thoughtful gifts, or elaborate ones to respective spouses. In many regions, newly married daughters with their husbands are invited for special meals. Sometimes brothers go and pick up their sisters from their in-laws home for this important day. The day is also a special day for the married couple, in a manner similar to anniversaries elsewhere in the world. The day after Diwali devotees perform Goverdhan puja in honor of Lord Krishna.

Diwali also marks the beginning of new year, in some parts of India, where the Hindu Vikram Samvat calendar is popular. Merchants and shopkeepers close out their old year, and start a new fiscal year with blessings from Lakshmi and other deities.

Bhai Duj, Bhaiya Dooji (Day 5)

Main article: Bhau-beej

The last day of the festival is called Bhai dooj (Brother's second) or Bhai tika in Nepal, where it is the major day of the festival. It celebrates the sister-brother loving relationship, in a spirit similar to Raksha Bandhan but with different rituals. The day ritually emphasizes the love and lifelong bond between siblings. It is a day when women and girls get together, perform a puja with prayers for the well being of their brothers, then return to a ritual of food-sharing, gift-giving and conversations. In historic times, this was a day in autumn when brothers would travel to meet their sisters, or bring over their sister's family to their village homes to celebrate their sister-brother bond with the bounty of seasonal harvests.[23]

Festival of lights

The word Diwali means the row(avali) of clay lamps(deepas) which symbolizes the lighting that protect us from spiritual darkness, achieving knowledge from ignorance, love from hatred.[57] They decorate their entire home with oil lamps, earthen lamps, candles, lights throughout the day into the night to prevent darkness and evil.

The first thing that strikes our mind is crackers, lightings, colours in the dark new moon night sky.[58]

Festival of peace

On this festive occasion, Hindu, Jain and Sikh communities also mark charitable causes, kindness, and for peace. For example, at the international border, every year on Diwali, Indian forces approach Pakistani forces and offer traditional Indian sweets on the occasion of Diwali. The Pakistani soldiers anticipating the gesture, return the goodwill with an assortment of Pakistani sweets.[59]

Regional variations

New Year celebrations

Diwali is celebrated in the honour of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth.
Lighting candle and clay lamp in their house and at temples during Diwali night
Sweets mithai (dessert) are popular across India for Diwali celebration.

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