Diwali or Deepawali is certainly the biggest and the brightest of all Hindu festivals. It’s the festival of lights (deep = light and avali= a row i.e., a row of lights) that’s marked by five days of celebration, which literally illumines the country with its brilliance, and dazzles all with its joy.
The Origin of Diwali
Historically, the origin of Diwali can be traced back to ancient India, when it was probably an important harvest festival. However, there are various legends pointing to the origin of Diwali or ‘Deepawali.’ Some believe it to be the celebration of the marriage of Lakshmi with Lord Vishnu. Whereas in Bengal the festival is dedicated to the worship of Mother Kali, the dark goddess of strength. Lord Ganesha, the elephant-headed God, the symbol of auspiciousness and wisdom, is also worshiped in most Hindu homes on this day.
Diwali is celebrated as per luni-solar based Hindu calendar, its date(s) varies on Gregorian calendar and usually falls in mid-October and mid-November. Diwali Calendar lists all five days of Diwali festivities for 1000 years.
Diwali Festivals List
Day 1 – Dhantrayodashi
Day 2 – Narak Chaturdashi
Day 3 – Lakshmi Puja
Day 4 – Govardhan Puja
Day 5 – Bhaiya Dooj
The third day of Lakshmi Puja is the most important day of five days festivities and most of the times this day is referred as Diwali Puja itself. Apart from above five festivals, the most famous festivals for which Diwali is known, Diwali Calendar lists several other festivals which are celebrated during 5 days Diwali festivities.
Numerous rituals are followed during Diwali. These rituals vary from state to state and within a state region to region. However,
cleaning and decorating homes usually by giving new whitewash or fresh paints,
buying new clothes and jewelry,
buying new household items either big or small,
preparing traditional home-made sweets,
worshipping numerous deities,
lighting Diya(s) and decorating home with blinking electric lamps,
trying Diwali remedies to gain wealth,
visiting relatives and family friends,
distributing sweets, dry-fruits and gifts,
calling distant family members, relatives and friends to exchange Diwali wishes are the most common activities during Diwali.
Diwali Regional Variance
Diwali celebrations are more extravagant in north Indian states. In South India like Holi, Diwali is a not as spectacular as that of North India. If one wants to enjoy spectacular fire-work at night then Delhi, Hyderabad and Mumbai are the most suitable metros to be in during Diwali.
Diwali celebrations are moderate in Chennai and Kolkata. In Chennai, Tamil Nadu, Narak Chaturdashi is more significant than Lakshmi Puja and in Kolkata, West Bengal, devotees worship Goddess Kali rather than Goddess Lakshmi on the third day of Diwali.
The Significance of Lights & Firecrackers
All the simple rituals of Diwali have significance and a story to tell. The illumination of homes with lights and the skies with firecrackers is an expression of obeisance to the heavens for the attainment of health, wealth, knowledge, peace and prosperity. According to one belief, the sound of fire-crackers are an indication of the joy of the people living on earth, making the gods aware of their plentiful state. Still another possible reason has a more scientific basis: the fumes produced by the crackers kill a lot of insects and mosquitoes, found in plenty after the rains
From Darkness Unto Light…
In each legend, myth and story of Deepawali lies the significance of the victory of good over evil; and it is with each Deepawali and the lights that illuminate our homes and hearts, that this simple truth finds new reason and hope. From darkness unto light — the light that empowers us to commit ourselves to good deeds, that which brings us closer to divinity. During Diwali, lights illuminate every corner of India and the scent of incense sticks hangs in the air, mingled with the sounds of fire-crackers, joy, togetherness and hope. Diwali is celebrated around the globe. Outside India, it is more than a Hindu festival, it’s a celebration of South-Asian identities. If you are away from the sights and sounds of Diwali, light a diya, sit quietly, shut your eyes, withdraw the senses, concentrate on this supreme light and illuminate the soul.