This year, the Diwali celebration falls on November 4. Diwali is one of the biggest celebrations in India. Also known as the festival of lights, this festival is a time for religious rituals for the people of Hindu, Buddhist, Jain, and Sikh beliefs.
For you guys who don’t know yet about this festival, let’s get to know about Diwali. Who knows, you might get to experience it next time you visit India. Check it out!
What is Diwali?
The name “Diwali” comes from the Sanskrit word Deepavali that has the meaning of “row of lights”. This festival celebrates the victory of light over darkness, good over evil, as well as knowledge over ignorance.
People would gather with friends and family and decorate their homes with rangoli (or also known as kolam in some regions). Rangoli is a decoration in which patterns are created on the floor or the ground using colored rice, dry flour, colored sand, or flower petals to bring good luck.
Diwali is the day when people commemorate the return of Prince Rama of Ayodhya, his wife Sita, and brother Lakshman after 14 years of exile. People of Ayodhya were so glad that their rightful king and queen had returned. Therefore, they lit lamps in their honor, which then becomes an important part of the festival until today.
In the Hindu tradition, Prince Rama is seen as the incarnation of Lord Vishnu and an embodiment of dharma or righteousness. On the other hand, his wife, Sita, is the incarnation of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity.
Diwali is also recognized as the day when Lord Krishna defeated the demon king named Narakasura in other traditions. In some regions in India, this day also coincides with the Hindu New Year.
Interestingly, Diwali follows the Hindu lunar calendar and so its date changes every year. People usually would celebrate Diwali on a moonless night in October or November.
How Diwali is Celebrated?
Every region in India has its own unique ways to celebrate Diwali, not to mention they have their own faith background and cultural traditions, too. However, there is an agreement that Diwali represents light over darkness, good over evil, as well as knowledge over ignorance like we mentioned before.
On this day, people not only will gather with friends and family, but also perform acts of charitable giving (dana) and selfless service (seva). This celebration also calls for some deep cleaning, decorating the house with rangoli and lights, performing religious ceremonies, and reflecting on one’s values.
In India, Diwali is a five-day festival featuring different ceremonies each day, where the third day is the main event. Each day of the celebration hold their own meaning:
Danteras: this first day of the celebration is dedicated to the goddess Lakshmi. On this day, people would mark the occasion by cleaning their houses, decorating their houses with rangolis, going shopping for new clothes, and buying some new kitchen utensils (it is believed to bring good luck for the upcoming year). They would also make treats to share.
Chhoti Diwali (or Kalichaudas): known as the “small Diwali”, on this second-day people would offer prayers for the souls of their ancestors and prepare for the Diwali that takes place on the third day. Many would also display lamps made with clays, called diya.
Diwali: the main celebration takes place on this day. People would wear their best clothes, visit temples to perform pooja, light diyas around the house, and light fireworks.
Annakut, Padwa, Govardhan Pooja: on the fourth day, people would reflect on the past year and spend the time to practice gratitude, and look ahead to the future (some would also perform pooja for a prosperous new year) as this day also marks the first day of New Year for many regions in India.
People usually also exchange small gifts with their loved ones. Husbands and wives also dedicate this day to recognize the love between Rama and Sita in the hope to strengthen the bond with their partners.
Bhai Duj, Bhai Bheej: on this final day of Diwali, people celebrate the bond between siblings. Therefore, many family members will visit one another and share a meal together on this day.
Let’s Not Forget The Food!
What is a celebration without food? Like any other festival, Diwali also has its own special foods, and each region has its favorite dishes. No one fasts on Diwali, and in some homes, meals are not even vegetarian.
On Diwali, the typical savory snacks are samosas, bhajis, aloo tikki (griddle-cooked potato patties), and channa bhatura (spiced chickpeas and puffed bread). In the western part of India, specifically in Gujarat, the infamous Diwali snack is farsan.
The main course would usually feature meaty curries, such as tikka masala. As for the vegetarian option, they also have dhal and pulse.
But the star of every Diwali has to be the sweetmeats (mithai), that are offered to gods and guests. They are made with dairy products, which have religious significance. Other snacks that we can also find during Diwali celebrations are barfi, laddoo, gulab jamun, kheer, and nankhatai.