What is Diwali and why is it celebrated
What does Diwali mean to you? Or want to know more about the holiday? Is it just another festival or much more — another year to celebrate and give thanks for the abundance of a year going by.
What happens during Diwali?
Diwali is extensively celebrated throughout Hindu countries. The name “Diwali” originates from the Sanskrit word “Deepavali” meaning “row of lights.”
Diwali, most commonly referred to as “the festival of lights,” is steeped in history. Linked with the new moon and the New Year, Diwali is thought to celebrate Lakshmi, goddess of prosperity and opulence and consort of Lord Vishnu—one of the Holy Trinity of Hinduism.
Celebrated over five full days, Diwali is arguably the most celebrated of all Hindu festivals. Each day has its message and history. However, all are thought to bring happiness, wealth, and joy.
In recent years, Diwali has mainly become commercialized. Today, Diwali is seen more as a social celebration than a religious observance. Food and sweets, as well as the exchange of gifts, are an essential part of the Diwali festival.
When and where is Diwali celebrated?
Diwali is celebrated sometime during October or November depending on when the new moon occurs. Diwali marks the new moon and, therefore, its precise date on the Gregorian calendar varies. In Hindi, the month in which Diwali is celebrated is called Ashwin or Aasho.
Diwali is celebrated as widely in the Hindu community as “The Holidays” are in America. Most celebrations take place in India, although Diwali is also enjoyed in countries as far away as Malaysia, Thailand, and Kenya.
How is Diwali celebrated?
Due to the widespread celebration of the festival of light, people observe Diwali in many different ways:
- The first day of Diwali is often referred to as Dhantrayodashi. During Dhantrayodashi, tiny diyas lamps are lit to welcome Lakshmi and to ward off evil spirits. Homes are decorated, and silverware is often purchased. Homemade sweets are also offered to the goddess.
- On the second day, known as Naraka Chaturdashi, the victory of Lord Krishna over the evil King Narakasur is celebrated. Across India, the ritual of bathing in scented oils made of sandalwood paste is observed before sunrise on this day. While bathing, fireworks, and firecrackers are let off to signify love and prosperity. Individuals also take part in songs and prayers.
- The third day is the last day of the year and is almost exclusively devoted to the goddess, Lakshmi. At the darkest point of the day, there is an explosion of light to welcome Lakshmi with all of her wealth and wisdom.
- Padwa is the name commonly given to the fourth day of Diwali. As the fourth day is the New Year and the new moon, it is considered an auspicious day for starting new business ventures. Padwa also represents the day on which the coronation of King Vikramaditya, the legendary emperor of India, occurred. Gifts are often exchanged between husband and wife to signify affection and loyalty.
- On the final day of Diwali, also known as Bhayya-duj, the focus is on the love felt between brothers and sisters. Gifts are exchanged, and food is shared.
Did you know that…
…not everyone is keen on Diwali in modern India? The Supreme Court has had to ban fireworks between 10 pm and 6 am to preserve the rights of citizens to “peaceful sleep.”
Diwali: useful terms and phrases
- Deepavali: origination of the name Diwali means “row of lights.”
- Bhajans: songs sung throughout Diwali to welcome the goddess Lakshmi
- Ashwin or Aasho: the lunar month in which Diwali is celebrated; usually correlates to October/November of the Gregorian calendar.
Common Diwali gifts
Diwali is not only a festival of lights, but also gifts. Exchange of gifts is a significant part of the spiritual tradition of the Vaishnavs. The great saint Srila Rupa Goswami wrote: “Bringing gifts and accepting gifts, believing in one’s thoughts and asking about the hidden, receiving a prasad and treating one another to a prasad – these are the six manifestations of love that the devotees experience for each other.”
In India, no other day of the year gives as many gifts as in Diwali. On that day, the traders sell out, and the shelves of the shops are empty in the blink of an eye. The reason for this is said to be that Diwali is dedicated to Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity, and is therefore associated with wealth and prosperity. On this day, it is customary to smoke and waste money. However, spending on yourself is considered a bad tone – so you need to buy gifts and give everyone you know. On Diwali, it is customary to treat each other (including neighbors, and even everyone else) with sweets, and thus to express their love and affection. Thus, Diwali turns into a celebration of joy and love exchange. During the days of the festival, some unique gifts are popular: coins depicting Lakshmi and Ganeshi, Deity and objects of worship.
Nowadays, of course, the nature of gifts in India has changed compared to the Vedic times. Today, these are increasingly technical spires, art objects, jewelry, watches, etc. Sweets and dried fruits are sold in special stylized “a la Diwali” baskets.
Best Diwali gift for fiance
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