The Festival of Diwali
Posted on November 08 2016
Diwali comes from the Sanskrit word 'Deepavali' and means 'rows of lighted lamps'. Diwali is a major festival that occurs every year between mid-October and mid-November, celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs, and Jains. During this 5-day long festival, the triumph of good over evil is celebrated and they worship Lakshmi for a successful new year. The main festival (day 3 of 5) coincides with the darkest, new moon night of the Hindu Lunisolar month of Kartika in the Bikram Sambat calendar. Preparations for the festival often start days before and continue to the first day of celebrations.
Day 1: Dhanteras - 28th October 2016
Everyone cleans, renovates and decorates their homes and workplaces. The women and children will decorate the entrances with bright colourful patterns (Rangoli) while the men prepare all external lights and finish off the renovations. This day also marks the birthday of Lakshmi (Goddess of wealth and prosperity) and Dhanvantari (God of health and healing) Diyas are lit and burnt throughout the night to show respect and to honour them. In the evening, Lakshmi is worshipped by all.
This is also a major day for shopping! Some merchants and shopkeepers decorate their shops to symbolise their prosperity.
Day 2: Naraka Chaturdasi (Choti Diwali) - 29th October 2016
Krishna, Satyabhama and Kali killed Narakasura (a demon) on this day. House decoration and Rangoli (commonly a Lotus flower) continue for the preparation of the main festival. Sometimes bathing rituals are also performed such as a fragrant oil bath, which is then followed by prayer. Women get henna on this day and the families prepare homemade sweets for the main festival.
Day 3: Lakshmi Puja (Main Festival) - 30th October 2016
As the evening approaches, everyone wears new clothes or their best outfits and Diyas are lit. Puja is offered to Lakshmi for her blessing for a good year ahead. It is believed that Lakshmi roams the Earth on Diwali, people keep their windows and doors open for her to enter their homes and lit Diyas are all around the house (doors, windows, balconies, rooftops) to guide Lakshmi to them. The mothers who work hard in the household are recognised during the festival, they are seen to embody Lakshmi. Important friendships and relationships also play part in the festival, everyone visits their close friends and family to exchange gift and sweets with one another.
Small oil lamps are placed in rows along parapets of temples and houses, some are set adrift on rivers and streams. After family prayer, fireworks are set off. The kids enjoy sparklers and small fireworks while the adults set off much larger ones, this is because it is believed the fireworks scare the evil spirits away. After the fireworks, there is a family feast, conversation and they enjoy some sweets and desserts.
Day 4: Balipratipada - 31st October 2016
The celebration of love and mutual devotion between and wife & husband, the husband gives a thoughtful gift to the spouse. Sometimes the brother picks up sister(s) from the in-law's homes to celebrate the next day. This is a very special day to a married couple and it is just as important as a wedding anniversary would be.
This marks the beginning of the New Year in the Vikram Samvat calendar, there is a Goverdhan puja in honour of Lord Krishna. Shopkeepers close out the old year and start new with blessings from Lakshmi.
Day 5: Bhaiya Dooji - 1st November
The final day of Diwali celebrates the sister-brother loving relationship, they ritually emphasise the love and lifelong bond. The women and girls get together to perform puja for the well-being of their brothers. After this, they return to the rituals of food-sharing, gift-giving and conversing.