Diwali: The Festival of Lights

November 12, 2020 - November 16, 2020

A multi-colored diya sits in the hands of a woman. Her hands are covered in henna designs and she is wearing an orange and yellow sari

Diwali- The Festival of Lights

Diwali is the biggest holiday of the year for those of the Hindu faith and is also celebrated by Jains and Sikhs in India. This five-day celebration marks the victory of the forces of light over the forces of darkness, the opportunity of new beginnings, and coincides with the Hindu New Year. During the festival, homes, temples and workspaces are illuminated with diyas, candles and lanterns. Diwali is also marked with fireworks and the decoration of floors with rangoli designs.

The Five Days of Diwali

Each day of Diwali is significant and the rituals and names of the days vary by region.

Day 1: Dhanteras, Dhanatrayodash

Many Hindus clean their homes and business premises. Diyas are installed and lit for the next five days, and doorways within homes and offices are decorated with rangoli. It is also custom to shop for precious items or kitchen utensils to help bring good fortune.

Day 2: Naraka Chaturdashi, Chhoti Diwali

Hindus wake up early in the morning and apply aromatic oil to themselves before bathing, then donning new clothes. This ritual is said to remove sins and impurities. In the evening, houses are lit with oil lamps, and bright and loud firecrackers are set off. It is also an important shopping day for food, especially sweets.

Day 3: Lakshmi Pujan, Kali Puja

This is the main day of the festival. Hindu, Jain, and Sikh temples and homes are aglow with tiny oil diyas, candles, and electric lights. In the evening, celebrants wear their best outfits and gather with family for Lakshmi Pujan, a prayer to Goddess Lakshmi. After the prayer, fireworks are lit in celebration, and families gather to share a feast.

Day 4: Annakut, Balipratipada (Padwa), Govardhan Puja

The rituals and festivities on this day vary by region, but in general, the fourth day celebrates the bond between husband and wife. In rural communities of the north, west, and central regions, the day honors the legend of Hindu god Krishna saving the cows and farmlands from rains and floods by lifting the Govardhan Mountain. In remembrance of this legend, mini-mountains are created out of cow dung. This day also has an agricultural significance for many Hindus. Hundreds of dishes are dedicated to Krishna, prepared and shared by communities.

Day 5: Bhai Duj, Bhau-Beej, Vishwakarma Puja

The last day of Diwali celebrates the sibling bond between brother and sister. A brother travels to visit his sister and her family. The sister welcomes her brother and she feeds him with her hands and gives him gifts.

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