Diwali Celebration in India

The Diwali celebration in India is also known as the Festival of Lights, according to the Society for the Confluence of Festivals in India. Diwali in Sanskrit means 'a row of lamps.' Diwali is India's biggest, most significant day of the year. Although there are different reasons for celebrating Diwali, all observations share one theme -- the triumph of good over evil.

The origination of Diwali

Historically, India depended upon its success as an agricultural society, and the last harvest of the year was an important time. Diwali was initially a harvest festival that honored Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. Diwali was also an opportunity to pray for a profitable new year ahead. It is observed annually in October and November and marks the end of India's fiscal year. Over hundreds of years, Diwali has become a national holiday for all Indians, regardless of their beliefs or religion.

Versions of Diwali

While several versions of the Diwali story exist, traditional Hindus typically commemorate the story of King Rama's return after the conquest of Ravana. Rows of clay lanterns are lit in celebration of this triumph. In South India, Diwali honors the day Lord Krishna defeated the evil demon, Narakasura. Western India's version of Diwali celebrates the day Lord Vishnu, the Preserver (and one of the gods in the Hindu trinity), sent the demon King Bali to the netherworld. Even non-Hindus celebrate Diwali. The holiday marks the spiritual awakening of Lord Mahavira in Jainism, and Sikhs think of Diwali as the day to mark the freedom from captivity of the Sixth Sikh Guru, Guru Hargobind Ji.

How is Diwali celebrated?

Diwali is celebrated for five days. While each day is honored differently, gambling is considered customary, particularly in North India.

  • The first day of Diwali is the time to thoroughly clean the home and workplace. Housewives shop for gold or kitchen tools, and the home is decorated to honor and welcome Lakshmi.
  • Day two of Diwali is the day that special baths with oils and fragrant powders are taken before sunrise. Clay lanterns are placed throughout the home, creating a special design (rangoli) on the floor with colored sand or pigments.
  • The third day of the festival is the most important. Families gather to pray to the goddess Lakshmi. The prayer is called Lakshmi puja. Fireworks displays and a feast round out the day.
  • The fourth day is considered the first day of the new year. Friends and family visit one another, bringing gifts and greetings.
  • On the final day of Diwali, brothers visit their married sisters, and the sisters shower their brothers with love and delicious food.
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