Diwali: An Introduction
The Diwali festival is also known as the festival of lights and is celebrated in every part of the country with pomp and vigor. Typically, it is celebrated over the course of 5 days with many rituals, the lighting of diyas, candles all over the house as well as bursting of firecrackers. Diwali is associated with worshipping the Gods of wealth and creation, Laxmi and Ganesha, as part of the rituals. Symbolically, the festival of Diwali denotes the victory of good over evil, light over darkness and knowledge over ignorance. As a highlight of Diwali, all homes, offices, temples and shops are brightly illuminated for these 5 days.
Meaning & Significance of Diwali
Diwali is celebrated all over India and has different religious traditions, deities, and symbolism associated with it. According to Hindu mythology, Diwali is celebrated on the occasion of God Rama reaching Ayodhya after a period of 14 years after defeating Ravana’s army of evil in the period of Treta Yuga. Upon the return of Lord Rama, the whole town of Ayodhya lit up with diyas to commemorate his visit. This marks the day of Diwali.
Apart from its mythological significance across all religions, Diwali is also associated with the fusion of harvest festivals in India in ancient times. Diwali is described in ancient Sanskrit texts like Padma Purana and Skanda Purana, both of which date back to the first millennium AD. The diyas of Diwali signify the Sun, which is the giver of energy and transitions in the Hindu month of Kartik, the time when the festival is celebrated.
Diwali is a 5-day long festival with the main Diwali Lakshmi Puja day occurring on the 3rd day of these 5 days. This is when Diwali is celebrated across the country.
Year 2019 = October 27
Year 2020 = November 14
Year 2021 = November 4
Year 2022 = October 24
If you are planning to celebrate Diwali, we recommend attending your yoga teacher training in India based on the above dates.
Lakshmi Puja and its Significance
Diwali is celebrated in the course of 5 days, each with a particular purpose and described as below:
- Dhanteras (Day 1)
- Choti Diwali (Day 2)
- Lakshmi Puja – Main Diwali Day (Day 3)
- Padwa and Govardhan (Day 4)
- Bhai Dooj (Day 5)
Among these, Lakshmi Puja is the most revered of all the days in the Diwali celebration and is also considered the most auspicious. This day falls in Amavasya night, which is the New Moon Night.
On this day, households and businesses perform a puja of Goddess Lakshmi – the Goddess of Wealth. By the evening, all members of the house wear new or special clothing, with women and girls of the house adorning new saris and jewelry. At dusk, all members of the family gather to worship Goddess Lakshmi and perform Lakshmi Pujan. Prayers are also offered to other deities like Ganesha, Rama, Sita, Saraswati, and Lakshmana.
Lamps (diyas) used during the course of the Puja are used to light up more diyas, which are then placed along the parapets of houses, in a row. Some diyas are also sent over in a river or nearby streams. After the Puja is over, all members of the household gather and light up fireworks together, and then share sweets amongst themselves. This is then followed by a sumptuous Diwali feast.
On the day of Lakshmi Pujan, the rituals are dedicated to the Goddess Lakshmi – the Goddess of Wealth – in order to welcome her to people’s cleaned homes so that they are blessed with prosperity and joy for the next year. It is paramount to clean every section of the house and this is done in the weeks prior to the actual Lakshmi Pujan, so that it acts similar to the way rains clean and purify the earth during the rains. Eventually, after this cleaning process, Goddess Lakshmi is welcomed to the house.
The importance of Dhanteras
Dhanteras is the first day of the 5-day long Diwali festival. Dhanteras is derived from Dhan, which means wealth and Teras, which means the thirteenth day of the Kartik (a Hindu calendar month) fortnight. This day is very significant, especially for businesses, who clean and decorate their offices before welcoming the creator of wealth – Goddess Lakshmi – into their premises.
The day of Dhanteras also marks the major shopping day of the Diwali festival. Businesses and households buy major items like Gold, Silver, Utensils made of Copper, Brass, Iron, as well as products like home appliances, cars, and jewelry.
On Dhanteras eve, families offer puffed rice, rice cakes, candy toys and batashas (hollow cakes of sugar) to Gods Lakshmi and Ganesha. Dhanteras is considered the symbol for new, auspicious beginnings as well as cleansing and renewal. The term “Dhan” in Dhanteras also symbolizes the Lord Dhanwantri who was born out of the churn in the ocean and presented the healing science of Ayurveda to humankind.
Choti Diwali falls on the 2nd day of the 5-day Diwali festival and falls on the fourteenth day of the second fortnight of the month of Kartik. This day is also called the Narak Chaturdashi and is marked by purchases of festive foods like sweets, such as laddus, halwa, shrikhand, barfis, and mawas. Similarly, sweets are also prepared at home using flour, rice, dry fruits pieces, semolina, chickpea flour, milk solids and ghee (clarified butter).
Choti Diwali is also used to visit friends, relatives, exchanging gifts and making preparations for the next day of Lakshmi Pujan or Badi Diwali, as it is popularly known.
Rangoli in Diwali
Rangoli has a special significance during the festival of Diwali. It is made at the entrance of every house in the form of intricate designs and decorations with colors, flowers, and diyas. The purpose of making Rangoli is not only decoration but also for welcoming of Goddess Lakshmi and other guests inside every house. Apart from this, making rangoli during Diwali is also supposed to bring good luck and wealth in the house and to the members of the house.
A more logical but scientific reason why rangoli is drawn at the entrance of a house is to ensure a calming effect on every visitor to the house. This effect is seen in the form of brainwaves in the visitor’s mind, putting him at comfort, ease and making him happy.
Rangoli is drawn in various designs and its variations are only limited to one’s imagination. This includes the use of colors, miniature themes, leaves, flowers, lamps, diyas, and other materials into making the Rangoli.
History of Diwali in Different Religions
Diwali is celebrated across many religions like Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism, and Buddhism. However, the significance and history of the festival vary according to different religious mythological scriptures.
In Jainism, Diwali is celebrated as a mark of liberation attained by Mahavira, which means that Mahavira got free from the cycle of birth and death on this day and his soul attained freedom and liberation from the karmic world. Thus, Mahavira attained Keval Gyan.
In Sikhism, the day of Diwali is celebrated as Bandi Chhor Diwas that marks the release of their Guru Hargobind from the confines of the Mughal Empire. Newar Buddhists also celebrate Diwali by worshipping Goddess Lakshmi while Bengali Hindus revere Goddess Kali as a way of celebrating Diwali.
How is Diwali Celebrated in different regions of India?
Diwali is celebrated in a variety of ways across the different cities and regions of India. The major cities that are famous for Diwali celebrations include:
- Jaipur – The world-famous Illuminated Markets of the city
The Johari Bazar strip lights up like a diamond necklace in the brilliantly lit market to mark the festival of Diwali.
- Goa – Watching the demon Naraksura burn
The focus of Diwali in Goa is to destroy the demon Naraksura by burning its effigy one day before the main day of Diwali.
- Varanasi – Fireworks over the Ganga
A constant stream of firecrackers illuminated the sky over the river Ganga as the city is drowned in light.
- Kolkata – Worship of Goddess Kali
The main day of the Diwali festival is celebrated as Kali Puja in the city of Kolkata.
- Amritsar – Golden Diwali with a sacred devotion
The Golden Temple complex in Amritsar is draped in lights while the lake’s edge is lined up with countless diyas that make the look mesmerizing in every sense during the Diwali festival.
- Gujarat – Diwali among tribals, without the pomp and show
Local resident so the tribal villages in Gujarat welcome you to their homes and make rangoli at the entrances, thereby celebrating the festival in a relatively modest manner.
- Mumbai – fireworks along the bay of the city
Marine Drive in the city of Mumbai lights up by the fireworks that illuminate the sky.
- Udaipur – Enjoy the Udaipur light festival
The light festival in Udaipur during Diwali features performances by DJs, food stalls and a lot of fun and exuberance.
- Ayodhya – The Original and Mega Diwali
In the year 2018, a Guinness record-holding feat in the form on 300,000 earthern lamps was lit along the banks of Saryu river in the city of Ayodhya to mark Diwali.
Diwali Safety Information
Considering the use of firecrackers and diyas during the course of the Diwali festival, it is very important to keep a few precautions and safety information in mind. There have been various instances of burnt hands, damaged ears and other health hazards to people oblivious to the safety measures needed to celebrate Diwali in a safe manner.
Among the most important measure that should be taken during Diwali is keeping away from fire. Be it crackers or diyas, it is vital to maintain a safe distance from your clothes and fire, so as to avoid accidents. Another great idea is to use earplugs to protect your ears from excessive noise. This also works best for people with sensitive ears. Crackers are notorious for loud noise and some can also seem like big explosions. It is therefore essential to protect both your ears as well as eyes while lighting up fireworks.
If you are particularly sensitive to air pollution, it is a great idea to wear a mask to protect yourself from the pollutants in the air. Maintaining a safe distance from the crackers and explosions will also bode well for your eyes.
Crackers and Safety – How to Celebrate Diwali without crackers
While crackers have their own popularity, there is a section of people who like to celebrate Diwali without using them and therefore avoiding the noise and air pollution associated with the fireworks. Diwali can be celebrated in a more traditional way by lighting up eco-friendly diyas, exchanging home-made sweets, throwing a house party, decorating your home and dancing to the tune of great music in the coziness of your home.
Not only do you save the environment from noise and your lungs from degradation, choosing a cracker-free Diwali means that you actually socialize with your friends and family while also saving a heavy amount of cash from being burnt, literally.
Diwali Images: Colorful Photos of the Diwali Festival in India
The festival of Diwali is one of the most vibrant and colorful festivals in India. Be it making a rangoli, bursting a firecracker, filling up diyas or doing Laxmi puja, everyone who takes part in the festivities enjoys the days in the run-up to the festival to the hilt. Not only that, people with a sweet tooth are overly keen to try the numerous varieties of sweets and chocolates on offer. Overall, the festival of Diwali is a rare occasion that brings together people from diverse backgrounds to work together and enjoy this festival of lights, colors and wealth.
Rangoli Time: Female visitors to India lend a hand at making a gorgeous Rangoli in preparation for Diwali.
Bursting those crackers: People gather outside a household to burst some firecrackers on the eve of Diwali.
Enjoying the festival: Ladies enjoying the Diwali festival by lighting up the Sparklers amidst other firecrackers.
Diyas for Diwali: A couple diligently prepares diyas for the festival of Diwali by rolling up cotton threads in small earthen cups.
Diwali at its visual best: A household enjoys Diwali by bursting crackers amid a full show of light, exuberance, and fun by everyone.
Sparkler Diwali: Women enjoy dangling sparklers and lighting them up on Diwali eve.
All set for the Diwali Puja: A host of diyas lit up along with idols of Gods Laxmi and Ganesh, right before the Diwali Puja.
Enjoying Diwali with Sparklers: A group of people celebrates the festival of Diwali by lighting up sparklers and having fun.
To conclude, the 5 days of Diwali are immersed in devotion, celebration, shopping, and enjoyment all across the country. While some regions are known for their illumination, others have the best Diwali markets to shop at. No matter where you are in India, you are sure to enjoy celebrating Diwali with the same level of pomp and fireworks as everyone else in the country.