Just a few days ago on Tuesday, November, 13th marked the beginning of Diwali, a holiday that is as important to Hindus as Christmas is to Christians. It symbolizes the victory of light over darkness, or inner light that wins over spiritual darkness. Diwali or Dipalvali literally translated means a “row of clay lights” and is also known as the Festival of Lights. Diwali originated from falling on the last week of harvest before the onset of winter. The festival lasts five days, each of the days symbolizing a spiritual journey with prayers to the Goddess Lakshmi for wealth and prosperity. Diwali also marks the New Year for Hindus, many of whom in India start a new financial year at this point.
The holiday also takes on an interfaith meaning around this time as other religions celebrate alongside the Hindu’s. For Jainism this time marks the nirvana or spiritual awakening of Lord Mahavira and for Sikhism it marks the day that Guru Hargobind Ji, the Sixth Sikh Guru was freed from imprisonment.
Meanings of the Five Days of Diwali
- First day (Dhanteras) people pray to Goddess Laxmi for prosperity and wealth. Housewives begin to spring clean the home and shop for gold kitchen utensils.
- Second day (Choti Diwali) is also known as ‘Small Diwali’, ‘Naraka Chaturdashi’ or ‘Kali Chaudas’ in some states. According to the legend, Lord Kirshna killed the evil daemon Narakasura on this day. People worship Goddess Lakshmi and Lord Rama.
- Third day is the actual day of Diwali. People go to the temple to pray to the Goddess Lakshmi of wealth and Ganesh, the ‘Lord of Beginnings’ and ‘Remover of Obstacles’. At night people light up little clay oil lamps called Diyas, Dipa Lights or Ghee Lamps and place them around their houses. They hang colorful lanterns and fairy lights, enjoying firework displays or blasting firecrackers.
- Forth day (Padwa) is 1 Kartika in the Hindu calendar and is also known as Govardhan Puja or Annakoot. It is said that Krishna defeated the god of rain and the heavens Indra on that day- also signifying the end of the monsoon season. This is New Year’s day for Hindu’s and they visit each other with gifts of best wishes.
- Fifth and last day of Diwali is called ‘Bhaiduj’ (‘Bhai Dooj’) also known as ‘Yama Dwitiya’. This is the day for brothers and sisters to strengthen their relationships. Brothers bring gifts for their sisters, and sisters make meals for their brothers. – Diwali 2012
Fun Fact: In 2009, Obama became the first US president to light the traditional lamp in the East Room of the White House. In 2010, he also celebrated Diwali in Mumbai.
Learn more about Diwali here through this National Geographic video:
Looking for Diwali events? Check out Sulehka for suggestions!
Here are some awesome Diwali recipes for you try!
How are you celebrating Diwali in your community?