Diwali or Deepavali– a joyous celebration that, broadly speaking, celebrates the triumph of good over evil. The festivals name roughly translates to ‘row of lamps or lights’ which is why Diwali is widely known as the Festival of Lights.
It takes place over a period of five days on auspicious dates during the end of Ashvin/start of Kartika – the Hindu lunar calendar months which equate to the Gregorian calendar months of October or November.
It also symbolises the replacement of darkness (ignorance) with ‘inner’ light – garnered via the pursuit of knowledge and spiritual practices. Indeed, spirituality lies at the heart of Deepavali, with devotees specifically seeking blessings from two prominent Hindu deities: Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and Ganesh, the elephant-headed god of good fortune and auspicious beginnings. Worshippers pray for prosperity and well-being for the year that lies ahead, with fireworks and crackers proffering plenty of raucous razzle-dazzle when devotional formalities come to a close.
While the festival undeniably takes centre stage, there is a particularly distinct air of ebullience – and fervent preparation – in the lead up to Deepavali. Houses and shops are given a rigorous spring clean before being lovingly decorated with fairy lights, patterned lanterns and colourful rangolis/kolams . The streets teem with shoppers keenly stocking up on everything from fancy new clothes and festive household decorations, to gifts for family, friends and business acquaintances.
The most popular gift, by a long shot, is sweets, with ornately packaged dried fruits and nuts also a hot seller. Shops are filled with a spectacular array of sweets specially prepared for this festival. Indeed, if there’s ever a time to experience India at its sweet – and convivial – best, it is during Diwali.
Deepavali: Meaning & Significance:
Deepavali is a festival in which people from all age groups participate. They give expression to their happiness by lighting earthen diyas (lamps), decorating the homes, bursting firecrackers and inviting family and friends to their households for a sumptuous feast. The lighting of lamps is a way of paying obeisance to God for attainment of health, wealth, knowledge, peace, valour and fame.
The First & Second Day:The first day is called ‘Dhanteras’ which falls on the thirteenth day of the month of Ashwin. The word Dhan means wealth. Believing this day to be auspicious, women purchase some gold or silver or at least one or two new utensils.
The second day is called ‘Narkachaturdashi’ or ‘Choti Deepavali’ which falls on the fourteenth day of the month of Ashwin. This day therefore is dedicated to lights and prayers heralding a future full of joy and laughter.
The Third Day:The third day of the festival of Deepavali is the most important day which sees colors of firecrackers, lighting of lamps, delicious sweets, new clothes and family get together exchanging gifts. On this day special pooja ceremony is observed to worship Lord Ganesh and Goddess Lakshmi. Despite the fact that this day falls on an Amavasya (dark night) it is regarded as the most auspicious.
The Fourth & Fifth Day:The grand celebrations of Deepavali spread through five days and the fourth day ofDeepavali festivities is marked with different ways in the various parts of India. In northern part of India this day is celebrated two days after Deepavali as
Govardhan Puja while in the western parts of India like Maharashtra state the same festival is celebrated as Padva, or Bali Prativpada. Govardhan Puja is also known and celebrated as Annakoot that means the mountain of food. On these particular festive days religious pooja ceremonies to seek the blessings of Lord Krishna are observed and special dishes with distribution of sweets are also an integral part of the celebrations.