The Hindu Festival of Lights
Estimated reading time is: 4 minutes
Strings of lanterns, millions of candles and oil lamps, and artistic decorations mark the five days of Diwali, one of the most important festivals of India. Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains worldwide will celebrate Diwali this year on November 12. Its name is derived from the Sanskrit word Deepavali meaning row of lamps. It is celebrated to honour the triumph of Good over Evil, Light over Darkness, Knowledge over Ignorance.
All around the world it is celebrated by Indians for various reasons depending on what religion they follow and which part of India they are from. Hindus from North India remember the day when Rama returned to Ayodhya after defeating Ravana, king of Lanka. South Indians celebrate Krishna’s victory over the demon Narakasura. In every Hindu home Ganesha, the elephant-headed god who removes obstacles, and Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, luck and prosperity are worshipped. Some legends say that Goddess Lakshmi was born at this time, others claim that this is her wedding anniversary – no matter what the mythological background is, this is the right time to purchase gold, and kitchen utensils and make financial decisions. This is the time of prosperity since Diwali always follows the autumn harvest.
The first day of Diwali is for shopping and cleaning, the second one is for decorating. On the third day the rituals, and traditional pujas take place. This year Lakshmi Puja falls on 12th November. Families get together, have a large meal, and distribute sweets and gifts. The fourth day is dedicated to celebrating the bond between husbands and wives, the last one is the day of siblings.
Though Diwali is a Hindu festival, it is also celebrated by Sikhs, Jains, and the Newar Buddhists of Nepal. Sikhs remember the day when the 6th guru, Guru Hargobind, who was fighting against the Mughal Empire, was released from imprisonment. For Jains, Diwali means the day that Lord Mahavir entered Nirvana, achieving freedom from the cycle of death and rebirth.
Diwali being the festival of love and the birth of light is often compared to Christmas in many aspects. Even its economic activity marks it as a major event of the year. It is observed by masses all around the world and in the past decades has become a festival noticed by most major political and religious leaders internationally sending their greetings to Indians on this occasion.
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