Diwali, or Deepavali, is an official public holiday in many parts of India and is part of a five-day Hindu observance known as the ‘Festival of Lights’.
Diwali is always celebrated between mid-October and mid-November in the western calendar, depending upon the lunar cycle each year.
The Festival of Lights is a colourful and happy celebration. Families prepare their homes and themselves for the special festivities that symbolise the victory of spiritual goodness and the lifting of spiritual darkness. Firecrackers are set off to drive away evil, oil lamps are lit, flower garlands are made, candles float in bowls of water outside homes and sweets are shared as part of the festivities.
Diwali can also represent the awareness of inner light within a person when ignorance is pushed aside by understanding and enlightenment.
In many regions, the five days of Diwali go something like this:
- Day 1 – Dhanteras – the start of the financial year for most Indian businesses and is also the day of worship of the goddess of wealth, Lakshmi.
- Day 2 – Naraka Chaturdasi – this is the day of cleansing. Oil baths are taken, people put on new clothes and food delicacies are prepared.
- Day 3 – Diwali – The day of the new moon – Amavasya – and the official day of the Diwali holiday.
- Day 4 – Kartika Shudda Padyami – the day recognised for when the tyrant, Bali, stepped out of hell and ruled the earth.
- Day 5 – Yama Dvitiya (or Bhai Dooj) is the day when love is symbolised between brothers and sisters.
Although these days of celebration occur in many places, in north India, Diwali celebrates Rama’s homecoming and his coronation as king. In Gujarat, the festival honors Lakshmi, and in Bengal, Diwali is associated with the goddess, Kali.