Diwali or Divali
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Diwali is derived from the Sanskrit fusion word Dīpāvali, formed from dīpa (दीप, “light” or “lamp”) and āvalī (आवली, “series, line, row”). Dīpāvali or Deepavali thus meant a “row” or “series of lights”. Tamil: தீபாவளி). Its celebration include millions of lights shining on housetops, outside doors and windows, around temples and other buildings in the communities and countries where it is observed.
Diwali (English pronunciation: /dɨˈwɑːliː/) is variously spelled or pronounced in diverse languages of India: ‘deepabali’ (Oriya: ଦିପାବଲି), ‘deepaboli’ (Bengali: দীপাবলী), ‘deepavali’ (Assamese: দীপাৱলী, Kannada: ದೀಪಾವಳಿ, Malayalam: ദീപാവലി and Telugu: దీపావళి), ‘divali’ (Gujarati: દિવાળી, Hindi: दिवाली, Marathi: दिवाळी,Konkani: दिवाळी Punjabi: ਦੀਵਾਲੀ), ‘diyari’ (Sindhi: दियारी), and ‘tihar’ (Nepali: तिहार). History
Diwali dates back to ancient times in India, as a festival after the summer harvest in the Hindu calendar month of Kartika. The festival is mentioned in the Padma Purana (c. 701–1200 CE), the Skanda Purana (c. 701–1200 CE), and other Sanskrit Hindu scriptures; the divas (lamps) are mentioned in Skanda Purana to symbolically represent parts of sun, the cosmic giver of light and energy to all life, who seasonally transitions in the Hindu calendar month of Kartik.
King Harsha in the 7th century Sanskrit play Nagananda mentions Diwali as Deepapratipadutsava, where lamps were lit and newly engaged brides and grooms were given gifts. Rajasekhara referred to Diwali as Dipamalika in his 9th century Kavyamimamsa, wherein he mentions the tradition of homes being whitewashed and oil lamps decorating homes, streets and markets in the night. The Persian traveller and historian Al Biruni, in his 11th century memoir on India, wrote Diwali being celebrated by Hindus on New Moon day of the month of Kartika. Significance
Diwali is one of the happiest holidays in India, with significant preparations. People clean their homes and decorate them for the festivities. Diwali is one of the biggest shopping seasons in India; people buy new clothes for themselves and their families, as well as gifts, appliances, kitchen utensils, even expensive items such as cars and gold jewelry. People also buy gifts for family members and friends which typically include sweets, dry fruits, and seasonal specialties depending on regional harvest and customs. It is also the period when children hear ancient stories, legends, myths about battles between good and evil or light and darkness from their parents and elders. Girls and women go shopping and create rangoli and other creative patterns on floors, near doors and walkways. Youth and adults alike help with lighting and preparing for patakhe (fireworks).
There is significant variation in regional practices and rituals. Depending on the region, prayers are offered before one or more deities, with most common being Lakshmi – the goddess of wealth and prosperity. On Diwali night, fireworks light up the neighborhood skies. Later, family members and invited friends celebrate the night over food and sweets. Spiritual significance
Diwali is celebrated by Hindus, Jains, and Sikhs to mark historical events, stories or myths, but they all spiritually mark the victory of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, good over evil, hope over despair.
In the Yoga, Vedanta, and Samkhya schools of Hindu philosophy, a central belief is that there is something beyond the physical body and mind which is pure, infinite, and eternal, called the Atman. The celebration of Diwali as the “victory of good over evil”, refers to the light of higher knowledge dispelling all ignorance, the ignorance that masks one’s true nature, not as the body, but as the unchanging, infinite, immanent and transcendent reality. With this awakening comes compassion and the awareness of the oneness of all things, and knowledge overcomes ignorance. Diwali is the celebration of this Inner Light over spiritual darkness, knowledge over ignorance, right over wrong, good over evil. Religious significance in Hinduism
Diwali is celebrated in the honour of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth.
The religious significance of Diwali varies regionally within India, depending on the school of Hindu philosophy, regional myths, legends, and beliefs.
Many see Diwali honouring the return of the god Rama, his wife Sita and his brother Lakshmana from exile of fourteen (14) years, as told in the ancient Hindu epic Ramayana. To some, Diwali marks the return of Pandavas after 12 years of Vanvas and one year of agyatavas in the other ancient Hindu epic Mahabharata. Many other Hindus believe Diwali is linked to the celebration of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity, and wife of the god Vishnu. The five day festival of Diwali begins on the day Lakshmi was born from the churning of cosmic ocean of milk by the gods and the demons; the night of Diwali is the day Lakshmi chose Vishnu as her husband and then married him. Along with Lakshmi, offerings are made to Ganesha who symbolizes ethical beginnings and fearless remover of obstacles; Saraswati who symbolizes music, literature and learning; and Kubera who symbolizes book keeping, treasury and wealth management. Other Hindus believe that Diwali is the day Vishnu came back to Lakshmi and their abode in the Vaikuntha; so those who worship Lakshmi receive the benefit of her good mood, and therefore are blessed with mental, physical and material well-being during the year ahead.
In India’s eastern region, such as West Bengal, the goddess Kali is worshipped, instead of Lakshmi, and the festival is called Kali Puja. In India’s Braj and north central regions, the god Krishna is recognized. People mark Mount Govardhan, and celebrate legends about Krishna. In other regions, the feast of Annakoot is celebrated, with 56 or 108 different cuisines prepared, offered to Krishna, then shared and celebrated by the local community.
In West and certain Northern parts of India, the festival of Diwali marks the start of a new Hindu year. Religious significance in Sikhism
Main article: Bandi Chhor Divas
Diwali, for Sikhs, marks the Bandi Chhor Divas, when Guru Har Gobind freed himself and Hindu Kings, from Fort Gwalior, from the prison of Islamic ruler Jahangir, and arrived at the Golden Temple in Amritsar. Ever since then, Sikhs celebrate Bandi Choorh Divas, with the annual lighting up of Golden Temple, fireworks and other festivities. Religious significance in Jainism
Main article: Diwali (Jainism)
Diwali has special significance in Jainism. Mahavira, the last of the Tirthankar of this era, attained Nirvana on this day at Pavapuri on 15 October 527 BCE, on Chaturdashi of Kartika. According to the Kalpasutra by Acharya Bhadrabahu, 3rd century BC, many gods were present there, illuminating the darkness. Therefore, Jains celebrate Diwali as a day of remembering Mahavira. Description and rituals
Diwali is a five day festival in many regions of India, with Diwali night centering on the new moon – the darkest night – at the end of the Hindu lunar month of Ashvin and the start of the month of Kartika. In the Common Era calendar, Diwali typically falls towards the end of October, or first half of November each year. The darkest night of autumn lit with diyas, candles and lanterns, makes the festival of lights particularly memorable. Diwali is also a festival of sounds and sights with fireworks and rangoli designs; the festival is a major celebration of flavors with feasts and numerous mithai (sweets, desserts), as well as a festival of emotions where Diwali ritually brings family and friends together every year.
Like major festivals of the world, rituals and preparations for the Indian festival Diwali begin days or weeks in advance. The festival formally begins two days before the night of Diwali, and ends two days after. Each day has the following rituals and significance: On Dhanteras, diya lights are left burning all night.
Main article: Dhanteras
Dhanteras starts off the five day festival. Starting days before and through Dhanteras, houses and business premises are cleaned, renovated and decorated. Women and children decorate entrances with Rangoli – creative colourful floor designs both inside and in the walkways of their homes or offices. Boys and men get busy with external lighting arrangements and completing all renovation work in progress. For some, the day celebrates the churning of cosmic ocean of milk between the forces of good and forces of evil; this day marks the birthday of Lakshmi – the Goddess of Wealth and Prosperity, and the birthday of Dhanvantari – the God of Health and Healing. On the night of Dhanteras, diyas (lamps) are ritually kept burning all through the nights in honor of Lakshmi and Dhanvantari.
Dhanteras is also a major shopping day, particularly for gold or silver articles. Merchants, traders and retailers stock up, put articles on sale, and prepare for this day. Lakshmi Puja (sometimes spelled Laxmi puja) is performed in the evening. Some people decorate their shops, work place or items symbolizing their source of sustenance and prosperity.
Main article: Naraka Chaturdashi
Narak Chaturdasi is the second day of festivities, and is also called Choti Diwali. Typically, house decoration and colourful floor patterns called rangoli are made on or before Narak Chaturdasi. Special bathing rituals such a fragrant oil bath are held in some regions, followed by minor pujas. Women decorate their hands with henna designs. Families are also busy preparing homemade sweets for main Diwali.
Main article: Lakshmi Puja
Rangoli or Kolam decorations for Diwali, are prepared from coloured flour (shown), or with flower petals. They are floor decorations near entrances and corridors to welcome goddess Lakshmi and guests.
The third day is the main festive day. People wear new clothes or their best outfits as the evening approaches. Then diyas are lit, pujas are offered to Lakshmi, and to one or more additional deities depending on the region of India; typically Ganesha, Saraswati, and Kubera. Lakshmi symbolises wealth and prosperity, and her blessings are invoked for a good year ahead.
Lakshmi is believed to roam the earth on Diwali night. On the evening of Diwali, people open their doors and windows to welcome Lakshmi, and place diya lights on their windowsills and balcony ledges to invite her in. On this day, the mothers who work hard all year, are recognized by the family and she is seen to embody a part of Lakshmi, the good fortune and prosperity of the household. Small earthenware lamps filled with oil are lighted and placed in rows by some Hindus along the parapets of temples and houses. Some set diyas adrift on rivers and streams. Important relationships and friendships are also recognized during the day, by visiting relatives and friends, exchanging gifts and sweets.
After the puja, people go outside and celebrate by lighting up patakhe (fireworks). The children enjoy sparklers and variety of small fireworks, while adults enjoy playing with ground chakra, Vishnu chakra, flowerpots (anaar), sutli bomb, rockets and bigger fireworks. The fireworks signify celebration of Diwali as well a way to chase away evil spirits. After fireworks, people head back to a family feast, conversations and mithai (sweets, desserts).
Main article: Balipratipada
The day after Diwali, is celebrated as Padwa. This day ritually celebrates the love and mutual devotion between the wife and husband. The husbands give thoughtful gifts, or elaborate ones to respective spouses. In many regions, newly married daughters with their husbands are invited for special meals. Sometimes brothers go and pick up their sisters from their in-laws home for this important day. The day is also a special day for the married couple, in a manner similar to anniversaries elsewhere in the world. The day after Diwali devotees perform Goverdhan puja in honor of Lord Krishna.
Diwali also marks the beginning of new year, in some parts of India, where the Hindu Vikram Samvat calendar is popular. Merchants and shopkeepers close out their old year, and start a new fiscal year with blessings from Lakshmi and other deities.
Bhai Duj, Bhaiya Dooj
Main article: Bhau-beej
The last day of festival is called Bhai dooj (Brother’s second) or Bhai tika in Nepal, where it is the major day of the festival. It celebrates the sister-brother loving relationship, in a spirit similar to Raksha Bandhan but with different rituals. The day ritually emphasizes the love and lifelong bond between siblings. It is a day when women and girls get together, perform a puja with prayers for the well being of their brothers, then return to a ritual of food-sharing, gift-giving and conversations. In historic times, this was a day in autumn when brothers would travel to meet their sisters, or bring over their sister’s family to their village homes to celebrate their sister-brother bond with the bounty of seasonal harvests. Regional variations within India
New Year celebrations
See also: New Year
The Marwari New Year is celebrated on the day of the festival of Diwali, which is the last day Krishna Paksha of Ashvin month & also last day of the Ashvin month of Hindu calendar. The Gujarati New Year is celebrated the day after the festival of Diwali (which occurs in mid-fall – either October or November, depending on the Lunar calendar). The Gujarati New Year is synonymous with sud ekam i.e. first day of Shukla paksha of the Kartik month -, which is taken as the first day of the first month of Gujarati lunar calendar. Most other Hindus celebrate the New Year in the Spring – Baisakhi. Gujarati community all over the world celebrates the New Year after Diwali to mark the beginning of a new fiscal year. The Nepal Era New year is celebrated by the ethnic Newari in the Kathmandu valley. The new year occurs in the fourth day of Diwali. The calendar was used as an official calendar until the mid 19th century. Most Nepalese celebrate the traditional new year in April i.e. Baisakhi.
Main article: Mela
To add to the festivas of Diwali, fairs (or ‘melas’) are held throughout India. Melas are found in many towns and villages. A mela generally becomes a market day in the countryside when farmers buy and sell produce, and rural families shop for clothes, utensils and other products. Girls and women dress attractively during the festival. They wear colourful clothing and new jewellery, and their hands are decorated with henna designs.
Among the many activities that take place at a mela are performances by jugglers, acrobats, snake charmers and fortune tellers. Food stalls are set up, selling sweet and spicy foods. There are a variety of rides at the fair, which include Ferris wheels and rides on animals such as elephants and camels. Activities for children, such as puppet shows, occur throughout the day. Homes, commercial and government buildings are cleaned, renovated, sometimes freshly painted and decorated days before Diwali. Decorations vary. Above: Rangoli with lights decoration for Diwali. Andhra Pradesh and Telangana
In Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, the festivities center over two days – Naraka Chaturthasi and Deepavali Amaavasya. The festivities start out at the crack of dawn and carry on well into the night. Most people make a trip to the local temple along with their families to seek the blessings of their respective Gods. The night sky is lit up with a scintillating array of noisy fireworks.
Diwali is one of the seven most important festivals of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. It is very popular with children who celebrate Diwali because of the excitement of bursting firecrackers. Special shops to sell firecrackers are set up in all towns, cities and bigger villages. There are some traditional customs followed such as buying new clothes for this festival. Buying new home or vehicles is considered auspicious. Special sweets are made too. Some eateries in Hyderabad make some delicious sweets during Diwali which will not be available at any other time. Meat and alcohol are generally not consumed. Tradition has it that Andhraites and Telanganites gift sweets during Diwali. Some areas host local stage story telling called Hari Katha. Some areas may put a huge Narakasura dummy made with fireworks. This will be burst by a person dressed as Lord Krishna or, more accurately, a costume of Satyabhama, the consort of Lord Krishna, who actually killed the demon Narakasura; an event that is celebrated as Diwali for generations. The evening sky of Diwali is a colourful sight to watch.
People clean/white-wash or paint/decorate their homes as it is a very auspicious day; to welcome the goddess of wealth and prosperity i.e. Lakshmi devi to their homes. Homes are lit up with hundreds of diyas and colourful diwali rangolis adorn the doorways. After all this preparation all the members of the family perform the Lakshmi puja. Another custom involves decorating homes with paper figures.
Festivities cut across boundaries to move on from the small villages to the big towns, often beginning almost a month before Diwali. Sales of expensive silk saris, jewellery, ornaments, and household goods increase. From the poor to the rich, everyone indulges in the largest shopping spree of the year. Sweets, which are an integral part of any festival in Andhra Pradesh, are prepared or purchased from shops. The festival is full of messages depicting one or more aspects of human life, relationships, and ancient traditions. Goa and Konkan
Divali begins in Konkan and Goa on the day of Naraka Chaturdashi. The houses are cleaned and decorated with kandeel(known as Akashdivo in Konkani), lamps, mango leaves, and marigold flowers. The utensils are made to shine, filled with water, and decorated for the holy bath the following morning. On this day, paper-made effigies of Narakasura, filled with grass and firecrackers symbolizing evil, are made. These effigies are burnt at around four o’clock in the morning the following day. Firecrackers are burst, and people return home to take a scented oil bath. Lamps are lit in a line. The women of the house perform aarti of the men, gifts are exchanged, a bitter berry called kareet is crushed under the feet in token of killing Narkasur, symbolising evil and removal of ignorance. Different varieties of Poha and sweets are made and eaten with family and friends. Festivities continue till Tulsi Vivah and lamps are lit every evening. Celebrations include Lakshmi puja on the Diwali day, Krishna puja or Govardhan puja and cattle worship on Balipratipada day, Bhaubeej, and Tulsi vivah. Diwali fireworks is a family event in many parts of India. People light up fireworks near their homes and in streets. Additionally, cities and communities have community fireworks. Above: Phuljhari, sparklers that are popular with some children on Diwali nights. Gujarat
Main article: Diwali in Gujarat
In Gujarat the Diwali celebrations take on a number of distinct characteristics.
Diwali occurs in the second (dark) lunar fortnight (Krishna Paksha) of the month of Ashvin (Gujarati: “Aaso”) and the first (bright) fortnight (Shukla Paksha) of Kartika (Guj: “Kartik”). Aaso is the last month of the Gujarati calendar, and Kartik the first.
Celebrations start earlier in Gujarat than in the rest of India, commencing on Agyaras, the 11th day of the Krishna Paksha of Aaso. On the 12th day is Vagh Baras, the festival of the cow and the calf. On the 13th day is Dhanteras, the days Diwali starts in the rest of India. The 14th (elsewhere known as Naraka Chaturdashi in South India and Choti Diwali in the North) is celebrated as Kali Choudas. The 15th (new moon day) is Lakshmi Puja, celebrated throughout India. The next day, the first day of Shukla Paksha of Kartik, is Bestu Varsh, New Year’s Day, start of the Gujarati calendar. The 2nd day of Kartik is Bhai Bij, the day Diwali ends. A further celebration takes place on the 5th day of Kartik, Labh Pancham. Karnataka
Known as Deepavali (ದೀಪಾವಳಿ) in Karnataka, it is celebrated on the day before and day following Amavasye (New Moon Day) as Naraka Chaturdashi (before new-moon day) resembling Satyabhama’s victory over Narakasura and as Bali Padyami, the first day of Kartika masa. The entire house is cleaned and new clothes are purchased for the entire family which is followed by lighting of oil lamps around the house and bursting firecrackers. The tradition in Kannada families is that all members gather together for the three days celebration. The thirteenth day of the Krishna Paksha is celebrated as “neeru tumbo habba” when the house is cleaned, painted afresh and the vessels are washed, bedecked and filled with fresh water for the festival. The next day is Naraka Chaturdashi, considered very auspicious. In parts of North Karnataka, the women of the house perform Aarti on the men. The next day is Lakshmi mahaapooje on Amavaasye (new-moon day).
On the fourth day, the house, especially the entrance, is decorated with flowers and floor decorations to invite Bali into their homes. A special entrance to the home is built, made out of cow-dung (gOmaya) and Sandalwood (siri-chandana). Both materials are revered in Kannada tradition as having divine significance. The day is of special importance to agricultural families as they celebrate Govardhan Pooja on this day. The houses are adorned with Keraka (replica of the Govardhana giri using cow dung) bejewelled with flowers and maize, ragi stalks. Fire-camps are kindled on both Naraka Chaturdashi and Bali Padyami days of Deepavali. The celebration of Deepavali is marked by the lighting of lamps in every courtyard and the bursting of firecrackers. Kajjaya is a special Deepavali delicacy in Bangalore region. Holiges and Chakkulis are prepared in all households. Kerala
Diwali or popularly known locally as Deepavali, falls on the preceding day of the New Moon in the Malayalam month Thulam (October–November). The celebrations are based on the legend of Narakasura Vadha – where Sri Krishna destroyed the demon and the day Narakasura died is celebrated as Deepavali. It commemorates the triumph of good over evil. The story of King Bali is also associated with Diwali by Hindus in Kerala. Unlike other parts of India, and other South Indian states, Deepavali is a low profile festival in Kerala and celebrated mostly by Hindus. Maharashtra
In Maharashtra, Diwali starts from Vasubaras which is the 12th day of the 2nd half of the Marathi month Ashvin. This day is celebrated by performing an Aarti of the cow and its calf – which is a symbol of love between mother and her baby.
The next day is Dhana Trayodashi. Traders and business people give special importance to this festival. It is also considered an auspicious day for making important purchases, especially metals, including kitchenware and precious metals like silver and gold. Homes, such as above, and buildings are decorated with festive lights for Diwali.
This is followed by Naraka Chaturdashi. On this day people get up early in the morning and take their bath before sunrise while stars are still visible. Bathing is an elaborate process on this day with abundant use of utnas, oils and perfumes, and is preceded by an Aarti.
The day after Naraka Chaturdashi comes Lakshmi-pooja. It occurs on Amavasya i.e. no moon day. The dark night is illuminated by lamps and at dusk firecrackers are burst. New account books are opened after a pooja. Generally the traders do not make any payments on that day to preserve Lakshmi in home. In every household, cash, jewellery and an idol of the goddess Lakshmi is worshipped. Friends, neighbours and relatives are invited over and celebrations are in full swing.
Bali Pratipada is the 1st day of Kartik in the Hindu calendar. It marks the start of Hindu financial year. It is a special day for Husband and wife. The wife puts tilak on her husbands forehead and he gives her an expensive gift. In recent times there is a growing trend of organising a cultural event called Diwali Padwa early in the morning.
Bhau-beej – it is the time when the bond of love between a brother and sister is further strengthened. The sister asks God for her brother’s(s’) long and successful life while she receives presents from her beloved brothers. On these days People makes ‘Faral’ like Chakali, Laddu, Karanji, Chiwada and other festive foods. Odisha
Diwali is celebrated with great joy. Rows of oil lamps, candles adorn the thresholds of all houses. Firecrackers are burst, sweetmeals are relished and distributed. Some people also worship family goddess. Tarpanam is done in the morning of diwali. All the members of the household gather together just after dusk. After the puja and offerings, the family celebrates Diwali festival by bursting firecrackers. As in other regions, most people prefer to celebrate it in their own homes, though family gatherings are also common. For Diwali houses are brightly lit, with the doors and windows kept open as Lakshmi is supposed to visit every home, and you can’t afford to leave it dark and abandoned. Various kinds of Pithas are prepared and given to the deities and forefathers, and enjoyed with family and friends. On Diwali night, many parts of Orissa celebrate Kali Puja, particularly in Puri, Bhadrak, Rourkela, Cuttack & Jajpur area. Tamil Nadu
A homemade feast and clothes as gifts on Diwali night.
Known as Deepavali (தீபாவளி) in Tamil Nadu (தீப + ஒளி = தீப ஒளி meaning lamp lights), it commemorates the death of Narakasura at the hands of Lord Sri Krishna. It is believed that Narakasura, a malevolent demon, tortured common people and they prayed to lord Krishna to defeat him. The people then celebrated Narakasura’s defeat with sparklers, lights and firecrackers. This celebration has continued down the generations as Deepavali. In Tamil Nadu, Diwali falls on the 14th day preceding the amavasya (new moon) in the solar month of Aippasi. The day begins with an early morning oil bath, wearing new clothes, bursting of firecrackers, visiting Lord Ganesha, Lord Vishnu and Shiva temples. The exchange of sweets between neighbours, visiting relations, and preparing Deepavali special sweets are traditions of the day.
Typical Deepavali celebrations begin with waking up early in the morning, before sun rise, followed by an oil-bath. The bathing tradition involves extensive massaging of warm til-oil containing pepper corns and betel leaves. New clothes are typically worn as a part of celebrations. After the bath, a home-made medicine known as “Deepavali Lehiyam” is consumed, which is supposed to aid in soothing digestive problems that may ensue due to feasting that occurs later in the day. Sparklers, firecrackers and lights are used extensively, much like the rest of the world where Deepavali is celebrated. Though the rest of the country celebrates Diwali traditionally on an amavasya day, Tamil Nadu will celebrate it on the preceding day, Naraka Chaturdashi. In Tamil Nadu, Diwali is calculated when chaturdashi prevails during sunrise, precisely at 4am-6am. If chaturdashi prevails after 6am it is not considered. For example, if chaturdashi tithi begins at 2:30 pm the preceding day and ends at 1pm next day, the next day will be celebrated as Diwali. Contrary to the rest of the nation, diyas are not lit on the night of diwali. Lamps are lit on the night of Karthikai Deepam, in the Tamil solar month of Karthikai. Uttar Pradesh
Diwali is the most important festival in this predominantly Hindu state and is celebrated with great vigor and gaiety. Diwali is celebrated in memory of Lord Rama’s victory over the demon king Ravana and his subsequent homecoming to Ayodhya after 14 years in exile. People wear colorful clothes throughout the Diwali festival, and enthusiasm is visible over the entire festival. The ghats of Varanasi come alive with thousands of brightly lit earthen lamps. Visitors throng in large numbers to watch this. Fairs and art festivals are held in the state, a venue for fun and shopping. Other celebrations, such as puja, fireworks, sweets and gifts exchange are similar to the rest of India. Braj region
In this region, Diwali marks the killing of Narakasura: Celebrated as Naraka Chaturdashi, one day before Diwali, it commemorates the killing of the evil demon Narakasura, who wreaked havoc. In different versions, either Krishna or Krishna’s wife Satyabhama killed Narakasura during the Dwapara yuga. The festival is celebrated over six days. It starts with Govatsa Dwadashi. Go means cow and vatsa means calf. Dwadashi means the 12th day. The story associated with this day is that of King Prithu, son of the tyrant King Vena. Due to the ill rule of Vena, there was a terrible famine and earth stopped being fruitful. Prithu chased the earth, who is usually represented as cow, and ‘milked’ her, meaning that he brought prosperity to the land. On second day, people shop for utensils, clothes, gold and other items.
The third day is called Chaturdashi, the day on which the demon Narakasura was killed by Krishna – an incarnation of Vishnu. It signifies the victory of good over evil and light over darkness. The day is celebrated with puja, fireworks, and feast. The fourth day, is Diwali night, celebrated like rest of India. The fifth day is Govardhan Puja, celebrated as the day Krishna defeated Indra by the lifting of Govardhana hill to save his kinsmen and cattle from rain and floods. Symbolic mountains of food are prepared representing the Govardhan hill lifted by Krishna, then shared in the community. The last day is Yama Dwitiya where brothers and sisters meet to mark their bond, love and affection for each other. If sister is married and lives in a distant area, the brothers typically visit their sisters’ place on this day and usually have a meal there. The brothers also bring and give gifts to their sisters. West Bengal, Northeast Bihar, Assam
Main article: Kali puja
Kali Puja is light-up night for West Bengal, Mithila region of Bihar and Assam. Kali Puja coincides with the festival of Diwali (pronounced Dipaboli in Bengali), (in Maithili, it is known as Diya-Baati) where people light diyas/candles in memory of the souls of departed ancestors. The goddess Kali is worshipped, not Lakshmi, for whole night on one night during this festival. The festival is popularly called Kali puja, not Diwali. Kali puja is also known by the names of Shyama puja or Nisha puja in parts of the Mithila region and West Bengal. In other parts of the world
Diwali is celebrated around the world, particularly in countries with significant populations of Hindu, Jain and Sikh origin. These include Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Mauritius, Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Guyana, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, the Netherlands, Canada, the United Kingdom,United Arab Emirates, and the United States. With more understanding of Indian culture and global migration of people of Indian origin, the number of countries where Diwali/Deepavali is celebrated has been gradually increasing. While in some countries it is celebrated mainly by Indian expatriates, in others it is becoming part of the general local culture. In most of these countries Diwali is celebrated on the same lines as described in this article with some minor variations. Some important variations are worth mentioning. Asia
Deepavali is a federal public holiday throughout Malaysia. In many respects it resembles the traditions followed in the Indian subcontinent. ‘Open houses’ are held where Hindu Malaysians (of all ethnic groups like Tamils, Telugus and Malayalees) welcome fellow Malaysians of different races and religions to their house for a scrumptious meal. Diwali in Malaysia has become an occasion for goodwill and friendly ties between religious and ethnic groups in Malaysia. Nepal
In Nepal, several animals are included in the Dipawali festivities. Crow, dog (above), cow, and ox are decorated and fed during its Tihar festival. Main article: Tihar (festival)
Diwali is known as “Tihar” or “Swanti”. It is celebrated over the same five day period concurrent with Diwali in India. The traditions vary from those followed in India. On the first day (Kaag tihar), crows are given offerings, considering them to be divine messengers. On the second day (Kukur tihar), dogs are given food for their honesty. After Kaag and Kukur Tihar, Gai Tihar and Goru Tihar is celebrated on the third day, where cow and ox are decorated and fed. Also on the third day, Laxmi puja is performed. This is the last day of the year according to Nepal Sambat, so many of the businessmen clear their accounts on this day and on finishing it, worship goddess Laxmi, the goddess of wealth. Days before the Laxmi puja, houses are cleaned and decorated; on the day of Laxmi puja, oil lamps are lit near doors and windows. The fourth day is celebrated as new year. Cultural processions and other celebrations are observed in this day. The Newars celebrate it as “Mha Puja”, a special ritual in which the body is worshipped to keep it fit and healthy for the year ahead on this day. On the fifth and final day called “Bhai Tika”, brothers and sisters meet, garland each other, pray for the other’s well being, mark the other’s forehead with Tika. The brothers give gifts to their sisters, and sisters feed their brothers.
In Nepal, family gathering is more significant during Diwali. People in the community play “Deusi and Bhailo” which is a kind of singing and dancing forming a group. People go to all the houses in the community and play songs and dance, and give blessings to the visited house, whereas the home owner gives gifts like rice, Roti, fruits and money. After the festival, people donate some part of the collected money and food to the charity or welfare groups and with the rest of the money and food, they go for a picnic. People also play swing called Dore Ping made out of thick ropes and Pirke Ping or Rangate Ping made out of wood.
Among Gorkhas, after Lakshmi Puja, young girls assemble in a groups four to ten members in a group on Diwali. And they sing/dance and play Dausi in each and every village one by one. The head of the family, of each house they visit, gives them dakshani as a token of gift. They play till Bhaitika (Bhaiduj). Diwali is rejoicingly celebrated during these days. Singapore
Diwali decorations in Little India is an annual celebration for Hindus in Singapore.
Deepavali is a gazetted public holiday. Observed primarily by the minority Indian community (Tamils), it is typically marked by a light-up in the Little India district, the heart of the Indian community. Apart from the light-up, other activities such as bazaars, exhibitions, parades and concerts will also take place in Little India. The Hindu Endowment Board of Singapore along with Singapore’s government organizes many of these cultural events during this festive period. Sri Lanka
This festival, a public holiday in the island nation, is also called “Deepavali” and is celebrated by the Tamil community. On this day, it is traditional for people to take an oil bath in the morning, wear new clothes, exchange gifts, performing Poosai (Pūjā), and a visit to the Koil (Hindu temple) is normal.[note 1] Burning of firecrackers in the evening of the festival is a common practice of this festival. Hindus light oil lamps to invite the blessings of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and to banish any evil from the household for once and for all. The festival is marked by illumination, making of toys of enamel and making of figures out of crystal sugar popularly known as Misiri. Sri Lanka’s celebration include many of the traditional aspects of Deepavali such as games, fireworks, singing and dancing, however the tradition of a large meal, family reunions and fireworks are admirably preserved. Beyond Asia
Diwali fireworks in Melbourne.
In Australia, Diwali is celebrated publicly among the people of Indian origin and the local Australians in Melbourne. Diwali At Federation Square has been embraced warmly by the mainstream Victorian population . ‘Celebrate India Inc.’ had started with Diwali Celebrations in the heart of city at the iconic Federation Square in 2006. The event has now become a part of the Melbourne Arts calendar and is celebrated over a week in the city.
Over 56,000 people had visited the Federation square on the last day of the festival last year and had enjoyed the entertaining live music and traditional dances of India, art and crafts as well as the variety of Indian cuisines with the festival culminating in a spectacular fireworks display on the Yarra River.
Many iconic buildings including the Victorian Parliament, Melbourne Museum, Federation Square, Melbourne Airport and the Indian Consulate are decorated over this week. Along with this, many outdoor dance performances and super banners immerse the city in Diwali mood in the City and Melbourne Airport. The Diwali event regularly attracts national organizations like AFL, Cricket Australia, White Ribbon, Melbourne Airport and artists from other communities and India . Their participation and contribution by a team of volunteers makes it a mega event and a show case for Indian community.
From the sheer numbers alone attending over one week period of the festival, Diwali at Federation Square has now been recognized as the biggest celebration in Australia. Caribbean
In Trinidad and Tobago, communities all over the islands get together and celebrate the festival. One major celebration that stands out is the Diwali Nagar or Village of the Festival of Lights located in Chaguanas, Trinidad. It features stage performances by the east Indian cultural practitioners, a folk theatre featuring skits and plays, an exhibition on some aspect of Hinduism, displays by Hindu religious sects and social organisations, nightly worship of Lakshmi, lighting of deeyas, performances by schools related to Indian culture, and a food court with Indian and non-Indian vegetarian delicacies. Thousands of people participate in the island wide festivities. Sports grounds, schools and other public locations such as parks, host Diwali Celebrations. Diwali celebrations begin with Lakshmi Pooja and continue with lighting deyas and singing, dancing and sharing meals. The festival culminates with fireworks displays ushering in Diwali. Fiji
In Fiji, Diwali is a Public Holiday and is a religious event celebrated together by Hindus (who constitute close to a third of Fiji’s population), and culturally amongst members of Fiji’s races and is a time in the year that is greatly looked forward to. Originally celebrated by imported indentured labourers from the Indian subcontinent during British rule in the then Colony of Fiji during the 19th century, it was set as a holiday at independence in 1970 as the government wished to set aside one religious public holiday each for Fiji’s three largest religions, i.e., Christianity, Hinduism and Islam.
Diwali in Fiji is often remarked by people from India as being observed on a larger scale then Diwali celebrations in India, as fireworks and Diwali related events begin at least a week before the actual day. Another unique feature is the cultural celebration of Diwali (aside from its traditionally religious celebration) where Fijians of Indian origin or Indo-Fijians, whether Hindu, Christian, Sikh or even Muslim along with the other cultural groups in Fiji celebrate Diwali as a time for sharing with friends and family as well as signalling the beginning of the Holiday season in Fiji. On the commercial side, Diwali is a time for many retail sales and giveaways. Diwali celebrations in Fiji have taken on a flair of its own, markedly different from celebrations on the Subcontinent.
Diwali marks a time for cleaning and buying new and special clothes for the celebrations amongst cultural groups along with dressing up in Saris and other Indian clothing, to work the day before. Homes are cleaned and Oil lamps or diyas are lit. Decorations are made around the home with an array of coloured lights, candles and paper lanterns, as well as the use of religious symbols formed out of coloured rice and chalk. Invitations are made to family, friends and neighbours and houses are opened. Gifts are made and prayers or pooja are made by Hindus. Sweets and vegetable dishes are often eaten during this time and fireworks are fired for days before and after Diwali. New Zealand
In New Zealand, Diwali is celebrated publicly among many of the South Asian diaspora cultural groups. A large group that celebrates Diwali in New Zealand are members of the Indo-Fijian communities who have migrated and settled there. There are main public festivals in Auckland and Wellington, with other events around the country becoming more popular and visible. An official reception has been held at the New Zealand Parliament since 2003. Diwali is celebrated by Hindus. The festival signifies the triumph of light over darkness, justice over injustice, good over evil and intelligence over ignorance. Lakshmi Mata is worshiped. Lakshmi Mata is the goddess of light, wealth and beauty. Special Divali foods are barfi and Prasad. United Kingdom