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Diwali: India’s Largest Festival

Diwali Festival Celebration

Diwali is the largest, and most important holiday in India. More than one billion people around the world celebrate Diwali, including members of several religions, such as Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, and even some Buddhists. Each of these religions celebrates Diwali for a different reason, but all of them celebrate largely in the same way.

Not only is it widely celebrated, but it is an extremely important holiday to most of those who celebrate it. Just like Christmas is the most important holiday to Christians, Diwali is the most significant of celebrations for those who celebrate it.

So what is Diwali?

The Festival of Lights

Diwali Festival Lights

Diwali gets its name from the Sanskrit word “deepavali,” which means “row of lights.” During the festival, people light many rows of small oil lamps and clay lanterns all along their sidewalks, roads, and homes. These lanterns and lamps have a lot of significance and meaning for the festival.

While different religions may celebrate Diwali for different reasons, the theme is the same for all of them: the victory of good over evil, and light over darkness. The lanterns and lamps show that even the smallest amount of light will shine in the darkness.

The lanterns also signify for many the light of knowledge in your mind, driving out the darkness of ignorance.

Another major part of the Festival of Lights are fireworks. No celebration of light would be complete without the spectacle of lights in the sky!

Why is Diwali Celebrated?

Everyone who celebrates Diwali does so for a different reason. Those who follow the Jain system of belief celebrate the day that Lord Mahavira achieved spiritual enlightenment, or Nirvana. Sikh’s have celebrated Diwali for many centuries, but today they celebrate to remember the day that Guru Hargobind Ji was released from prison in the 17th century.

Hindus, however, have several reasons they celebrate Diwali. These reasons vary by which part of the country they are from. In the North, the celebration is tied to the story of King Rama. Rama is seen as the ideal role model for many people in Hindu traditions. According to Hindu stories, Rama was exiled from his kingdom for 14 years. He returned to his rightful place on the throne after defeating the demon Ravana by lighting many lanterns made of clay. Diwali is a celebration of this victory over Ravana, and the return of King Rama to his kingdom.

In the South of India, beliefs over Diwali are very different. They celebrate the day that Krishna, an avatar of the Hindu deity Vishnu, killed the evil demon Narakasura. In doing so, Krishna released 16,000 girls and women held captive by Narakasura, and defeated a strong evil kingdom.

Many Hindus associate Diwali with the Goddess Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity, and the wife of Vishnu. Often people will go through extra effort to clean their homes, and decorate them with vibrant colors, believing that Lakshmi will not enter into their homes if it is not clean or well decorated.

How is Diwali Celebrated?

Diwali Festival Decorations

In addition to lighting lamps, cleaning, and decorating their homes, there are many more traditions surrounding Diwali. These traditions and celebrations happen over the course of five days.

On the first day, people clean and decorate their homes. They may also shop for gold, or for kitchen utensils believing that these two things may bring more wealth and prosperity to them.

On the second day, people bring out their lamps and lanterns and begin lighting up their homes, shops, and more. They will also create designs called rangoli out of colored rice or powders around their homes.

The third day is the main day of festivities. Families gather together for Lakshmi puja, a prayer to the Goddess Lakshmi. After the prayer follows a great feast. A key part of the feast are sweets and desserts called mithai. These mithai come in a wide range of flavors and forms, and are shared with family and friends alike. There are also many fireworks and other festivities including performances, dancing, and more.

The fourth day is the first day of the New Year. This day is dedicated to visiting friends and relatives with gifts.

The fifth, and final day of Diwali is a celebration of the bond between brothers and sisters. On this day, the women of each family gather together in prayer. After the prayer is finished, they prepare a feast for their brothers, and feed them by hand. The brothers also give gifts to their sisters on this day.

When is Diwali Celebrated?

Diwali is celebrated according to the traditional Hindu calendar. Because the Hindu calendar is different from the main calendar we use internationally, the days on which Diwali is celebrated varies from year to year. Usually it occurs in the month of October or November.

This time of year is traditionally when people harvest their fields. This means Diwali is not just a celebration of the New Year and victory of good over evil, but also of a successful harvest. This is why many people pray to Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity. These prayers give thanks for the bountiful harvest, and ask for a prosperous new year as well.

This year, 2022, Diwali will begin on October 22nd and continue through the 26th. The main celebrations will occur on the third day, October 24th.

You Can Celebrate Too!

While most of the people who celebrate Diwali live in India, Hindus, Jains, and Sikhs live all over the world. Today Diwali is a tradition celebrated in many different nations, and is an official holiday in more than 12 different countries.

Talk to your family and friends who may be Hindu, Jain, or Sikh, or who may know anybody who celebrates Diwali. Use your local resources online to find celebrations near you. Diwali is a celebration all about sharing and giving to others, and you are sure to be welcomed by those who are celebrating this ancient holiday near you. We’ve included a few Diwali coloring sheets here to start a discussion with your family. Click here to download!

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