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Diwali / Deepawali (Hindi: दिवाली | Telugu: దీపావళి | Tamil: தீபாவளி | Bengali: দীপাবলী | Gujarati: દિવાળી | Marathi: दिवाळी | Kannada: ದೀಪಾವಳಿ)

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Diwali or Deepavali, the ‘festival of light’ signifies the victory of good over evil, light over darkness and knowledge over ignorance. India, being a diverse multi-cultural country, has varied interpretations of Diwali. Though the history, rituals and deities may vary as we move across the country, but the essence of the festival remains the same. The festival of lights is emblematic of the elimination of spiritual darkness. Diwali is the occasion to let the light of God, enter our hearts and minds while eliminating all the ignorance and unpleasantness within.

Quick Facts
  • This year Diwali is celebrating on Thursday, October 23, 2014. The main festival night of Diwali coincides with the darkest, new moon night of the Hindu Lunisolar month Kartika. In the Gregorian calendar, Diwali night falls between mid-October and mid-November.
  • The Sanskrit word “Deepawali” means “an array of lights” and signifies the victory of brightness over darkness.
  • Diwali is generally associated with the worship of Goddess Lakshmi, the Hindu Goddess of wealth and prosperity.
  • Diwali is celebrated over a period of five days beginning in late Ashwin and ending in early Kartik.
  • On the first day of Diwali, housewives consider it auspicious to spring clean the home and shop for gold or kitchen utensils.
  • On the second day, people decorate their homes with clay lamps or diyas and create design patterns called rangoli on the floor using colored powders or sand.
  • Third day is the main day of the festival when families gather together for Lakshmi puja, a prayer to Goddess Lakshmi followed by mouth-watering feasts and firework festivities.
  • Fourth day is the first day of the new year when friends and relatives visit with gifts and best wishes for the season.
  • On the last day of Diwali, brothers visit their married sisters who welcome them with love and a lavish meal.
  • Throughout the five-day festival, small earthenware lamps filled with oil are lighted and placed in rows along the tops of temples and houses and set adrift on rivers and streams.
  • Many families draw a colorful rangoli, a decorative pattern made in rice flour, at the entrance of the home.
  • Indians celebrate this festival with family gatherings, glittering clay lamps, festive fireworks, strings of electric lights, bonfires, flowers, sharing of sweets, and worship to Lakshmi.
  • In North India they celebrate the story of King Rama’s return to Ayodhya after he defeated Ravana by lighting rows of clay lamps.
  • South India celebrates it as the day that Lord Krishna defeated the demon Narakasura.
  • In western India the festival marks the day that Lord Vishnu, the Preserver (one of the main gods of the Hindu trinity) sent the demon King Bali to rule the nether world.
  • Diwali is celebrated as ‘Kali Puja’ in West Bengal by worshipping Goddess Kali.
  • Diwali is one of the oldest rituals for Kashmiri Pundits. There is mention of Diwali celebrations in the Nilmat Puran, and is referred to as ‘Sukhssuptika’ which literally means ‘to sleep with happiness’.
  • Diwali celebrations in Orissa have a unique traditional practice of calling upon the spirits of their dead ancestors. They burn jute stems to shed light on the dark path of the spirits on their way to heaven.
  • In England, the days are Dhanteras, Narak Chatrudashi, Lakshmi-Puja, the most important day, Padwa or Varshapratipanda and Bhaiya Dooj or the Teeka Ceremony.
  • In Trinidad and Tobago, the day of Divali is a public holiday and celebrations precede the Lakshmi-Puja day for almost two weeks. This event is one of the foremost religious observances for the country.
  • In Malaysia, Diwali is celebrated as ‘Hari Diwali’ in the month of Aswayuja. It is a national public holiday in Malaysia.
  • Diwali is also celebrated in Nepal and is referred to as ‘Tihar’ or ‘Swanti’. On the fourth day, the Hindu God of death, Yama is worshipped for a longer life of the people.
  • Diwali is an official holiday in India, Fiji, Guyana, Malaysia, Mayanmar, Mauritius, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobaggo and Singapore.
  • Diwali marks the end of the harvest season and the onset of winter. Farmers thank the deities for the harvest they had and pray for a prosperous harvesting season in the upcoming year.
  • The business community celebrates Diwali by opening new accounting books. Diwali marks the beginning of the new financial year; hence, traders and businessman start it by offering prayers to Lord Ganesha.
  • Over the centuries, Diwali has become a national festival that is enjoyed by most Indians regardless of faith: Hindus, Jains, Buddhists, and Sikhs.
  • In Jainism, it marks the nirvana or spiritual awakening of Lord Mahavira in Oct. 15, 527 B.C.
  • In Sikhism it marks the day that Guru Hargobind Ji, the Sixth Sikh Guru was freed from imprisonment.

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