Diwali in India: Festival of Lights
Diwali, also known as the Festival of Lights, is one of the most popular and celebrated festivals in India. The festival brings with it a sense of joy and happiness, as people around the country celebrate with traditions and festivities that are unique to India. Diwali symbolizes the victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance. The festival is celebrated for five days in the Hindu month of Kartik (October/November) and is celebrated with much enthusiasm and grandeur. The festivities include lighting diyas (candles/lamps), exchanging gifts, organizing get-togethers, and attending fireworks shows. Join us as we take a closer look at Diwali - the Festival of Lights in India.
1. Celebration of Diwali in India
Every year, all around the India, Diwali, the festival of lights is celebrated with enthusiasm and joy. During this festival, people clean out their homes, brighten it with diyas and decorative lights in order to welcome and honor the god of wealth and prosperity, Lakshmi. Diwali is an important festival for all Hindus. It is celebrated in honor of Lord Ram’s return to Ayodhya after his fourteen years of exile.
The festival begins with Dhanteras, the first day of the five-day celebration. People purchase utensils and other items for their homes. Next, the second day of Diwali, Naraka Chaturdashi people wake up early in the morning, take a bath, get dressed and draw beautiful designs, known as rangolis, in front of their homes. Third day is the main and important day of Diwali. People dress up, exchange gifts, offer prayers to Goddess Lakshmi and in the evening they light up their homes with diyas and candles.
Fourth day is called Govardhan Puja, where people offer prayers to Lord Vishnu and thank him for his blessings. On the last and fifth day of Diwali, Baisakhi is celebrated, which marks the beginning of the Hindu solar new year. People visit each other to exchange gifts, decor their homes with drapes and floral decorations. The celebrations of Diwali end in the evening with a grand fireworks display.
The festival of Diwali portrays the victory of light over darkness and good over evil. Through lighting up their homes with diyas and candles, people welcome positivity and hope into their lives. People also exchange sweets and gifts on this occasion and enjoy their feasts with family and friends. As the diyas and fireworks illuminate the night sky, it signifies a time for love, joy and togetherness. This is why Diwali is one of the most joyous festivals in India.
2. Religious Significance of Diwali
Diwali is considered to be India’s most beloved festival, and with good reason–it is one of the most important religious festivals in Hinduism. This festival is celebrated in honor of the Hindu gods and goddesses and is believed to bring peace, prosperity, and joy to all who observe it. The celebration stems from the story of Rama and Sita, who after defeating Ravana, lit the streets with clay diyas or lamps to find their way back home. This is why diyas are lit as a part of the tradition of Diwali, so that the light of god can reach every home and bring in abundance.
The celebration of Diwali is based on various religious beliefs. For instance,
- Dhanteras marks the beginning of the Diwali celebrations and is celebrated two days before Diwali. It is said that on this day goddess Lakshmi emerged from the churning of the sea and blessed wealth and prosperity to all.
- Naraka Chaturdashi is celebrated a day before Diwali to commemorate the victory of god Krishna over the asura Narakasura.
- Lakshmi Pujan marks the main day of Diwali and is a day to worship the goddess of wealth and area.
- Govardhan Puja is celebrated when people offer prayers to god Vishnu and seek his protection and blessings.
- Bhai Dooj marks the end of the Diwali celebrations and is celebrated on the fifth day. This is when brothers and sisters exchange gifts and express their love for each other.
Diwali, then, is a celebration of all the gods and goddesses in Hinduism and is a great occasion to express gratitude and seek blessings for oneself and for one’s family.
3. The Symbolism of Diwali Lights
The Significance of the Flame
Diwali lights, or ‘diyas’, are an important part of Diwali celebrations. Since ancient times, lights have been used to ward off evil forces and to bring good luck. Not only are diyas lit inside homes, but also in outdoor spaces, such as gardens and temple courtyards. The glow of the diyas is thought to bring bright and happy days in the coming year.
The Spiritual Meaning Behind Diwali
The lights of the diyas represent the victory of good over evil and are a powerful reminder to stay true to the paths of wisdom and truth. It is believe that the light of the diya guides human beings through dark and perilous times. It is also believed that it can spread love, peace and harmony between all people.
A Symbol of Prosperity
When Diwali is celebrated around the world, many decorations and lights are used to symbolise the joy and prosperity of the season. During the festival, it is customary to light diyas both inside and outside the home to draw in wealth, success, and happiness. The diyas themselves are thought to generate a positive energy that attracts those things we wish for.
A Cultural Tradition
The traditional customs of lighting diyas during Diwali is a cultural symbol of Indian culture, and is a way of connecting with our ancestors. It is a time when people of all religions can come together in peace and be part of the global festivities. Diwali marks a time of new beginnings and hope, and is the perfect way to start the year with a renewed sense of optimism.
4. Diwali Celebrations Across India
Karnataka celebrates Diwali with full gusto. It is known as Naraka Chaturthi and is celebrated as per lunar calendar. Mishti Kollu is made of wheat flour, jaggery and sesame seeds and this is offered to Lord Krishna with a lot of enthusiasm. Community is decorated with mango and banana leaves and known as Deepollu.
Diwali celebrations in Gujarat is full of fun and excitement. Gujarati diwali includes decorations of the homes and festival rituals. People put diyas and rangolis in the streets and doorways of their homes and worship Goddess Lakshmi and Lord Ganesha.
People of West Bengal celebrate Diwali as Kali Puja and perform rituals dedicated to Goddess Kali. Clay figures of Kali are made and kept in the houses and later submerged in a deep pond as an offering to the goddess. People exchange sweets, crackers and gifts and small clay lamps known as Diya are lit throughout the night.
Diwali is called Deepavali in Tamil Nadu. During Diwali, it is believed that Goddess Lakshmi visits homes and Lord Krishna killed the demon Narakasura. People take a dip in holy rivers like Ganga and Yamuna and wear new clothes. Houses are lit up by diyas and crackers are burst.
People in Uttar Pradesh have unique ways of celebrating Diwali. The nights are lit up with the diyas and earthen oil lamps known as Chilka and Tikka. Celebrations include card parties, family dinners and bursting of firecrackers. People exchange gifts, sweets and savouries for the festivities.
5. Customs & Traditions of Diwali
1. Jolliness and Bliss: Diwali is a festival of joy and it is brightly celebrated throughout different parts of India. Hindus perform rituals and customs to seek the blessings of the gods. Colourful rangolis, fireworks and traditional songs known as bhajans are integral aspects of Diwali in India.
2. Homes and Temples Iblluminated: Homes, temples and other religious places are brightly illuminated with oil lamps. Coconut oil lamps signify good luck and wisdom and are lit in households that last for five days.
3. Celebrated with Family and Friends: Family and friends get together to celebrate Diwali. They share sweets and exchange gifts to show their love and appreciation for each other.
4. Goddess Lakshmi Pooja: Diwali is a celebration of the victory of light over darkness. The goddess Lakshmi, who is the goddess of wealth, is worshiped. The pooja involves a host of rituals and offerings.
5. Delicacies and Fireworks: Homemade traditional dishes are prepared and shared among neighbors, family and friends. Sparklers, colorful fireworks and decorative lights lining the streets bring the night to live.
6. Diwali in the Digital Age
The festival of Diwali marks the beginning of a new year for many in India. Over the years, Diwali has become increasingly popular and celebrated over the world. With the technological advancements of the modern day world, the festival of Diwali has taken a new form in the digital age.
In today’s times, social media has made it easier for people to stay connected on special occasions like Diwali. From Diwali e-cards to WhatsApp and Facebook messages – people can now wish their loved ones across countries. Multifarious virtual greeting cards are available online, enabling people to express their feeling without having to worry about the geographical distance.
- With the world going digital, many opt to shop online for Diwali.
- E-commerce sites as well as various online portals offer a range of gifts and goodies for the festival.
- From clothes and décor to lamps and crackers, everything is available online.
- The convenient and hassle-free shopping experience of the online stores is attractive to many.
Apart from cards and gifts, the online age has brought in streaming services that help people enjoy the festivities of Diwali from the comfort of their homes. Be it a grand display of fireworks or a fabulous Diwali celebration, the shimmering diyas, the sensational sounds of firecrackers and the interesting rituals can all be experienced without having to leave your home.
The digital age has surely heightened the Diwali experience and made it much more enjoyable.
7. Delicious Diwali Dishes
Diwali, also known as the Festival of Lights, is celebrated across India and around the world, and no celebration is complete without some classic Diwali delicacies. Consider these favorites for your Diwali feast:
- Gujiya: This traditional sweet filled with a mix of desiccated coconut, nuts, and some spices is one of the most popular Diwali treats. It often has a golden-brown, flaky pastry crust and a sweet stuffing meant for a delightful bite.
- Besan Laddu: A denser version of the gujiya, besan laddu is made of roasted chickpea flour, dry fruits, sugar syrup and clarified butter. It is often decorated with glazed fennel seeds or slivered almonds for extra flavor.
- Papdi Chaat: This savory snack is served during the festive season in many parts of India. It is made of papdi (deep fried wheat wafers) topped with a layer of mashed potatoes, curd, and chutneys for added flavor.
- Shahi Tukda: A dessert that is fit for royalty, shahi tukda is often served on special occasions. This rich treat is made of thickened, creamy milk, fried bread, nuts and saffron for an extra kick.
- Kaju Katli: A classic Diwali sweet, kaju katli is made of cashew nuts, sugar, clarified butter and cardamom. The nuts are ground into a paste and then shaped into diamond pieces, making it a statement piece on any Diwali dinner table.
- Dahi Vada: One the most popular street foods in India, dahi vada is made of dumplings, yogurt, and spices. It is often topped with sev for added crunch and makes for a delicious Diwali snack.
From traditional sweets, to snacks and desserts, these dishes are sure to make Diwali a memorable event for your family and friends.
8. Recommendations for a Memorable Diwali Celebration
Diwali, often referred to as the Festival of Lights, is a five-day celebration that marks the Hindu New Year. Despite being celebrated all around India, it is particularly special in the North where it has been part of the culture for centuries. This event usually takes place between mid-October and mid-November. If you want to have an unforgettable Diwali experience, make sure to follow these eight helpful tips:
- Decorate your space:
Decorations are a key part of any Diwali celebration. From elaborate strings of lights adorning rooftops to intricate rangolis brightening doorsteps, these signs of festivity can really add to the atmosphere. Don’t forget the diyas and lamps either – make sure to light them up in the evening as soon as the sun sets.
- Gift shopping:
Whether you’re giving gifts to your friends and family in India or abroad, Diwali is the best time of year to shop. Make sure to get something unique for each of your loved ones – the best gifts tend to be those homemade with love.
- Invite your nearest and dearest:
Diwali is the perfect opportunity to have a catch-up with friends and family. Invite your nearest and dearest over for a meal and spend quality time with those closest to you. If you can’t have people over, schedule a virtual get-together and use this as a chance to bond from afar.
If you’ve been wanting to learn some traditional Indian dishes, Diwali is the perfect excuse. Make sure to include classic dishes like kheer, balushahis, rasgullas and sev barfi. Don’t forget the savoury snacks like samosas, pakodas and bhajiyas. Serve with plenty of chutneys, dips and pickles and you’ll have a memorable meal for sure.
- Play games:
Playing games is one of the main attractions during Diwali. If you have enough people to make it worth playing, you can go all out with traditional board games like ludo or caroms. Alternatively, you could break out a pack of cards and play rummy or teen patti.
- Visit temples:
Visiting temples is a great way to spend the festival of Diwali. Make sure to offer prayers to Lord Ganesha and Goddess Lakshmi for their abundant blessings. You can even ask the priest to perform sacred rituals such as puja or aarti on your behalf.
- Set off firecrackers:
Sending off firecrackers and sky lanterns is one of the most memorable activities associated with Diwali. Buy some rockets, sparklers, and other colourful explosives from the local store and let the good times roll. Make sure to stay safe though and never let children play with them on their own.
- Contribute to charity:
Conducting charitable activities is an important part of Diwali. Set aside a small portion of your budget for charity and reach out to the less fortunate. Make sure to do your bit to help those in need – this is one of the best ways to celebrate Diwali in true spirit.
Diwali is a vibrant celebration in India that brings families and communities together. While the holiday may look and feel different this year due to the pandemic, its spirit of joy, love, and celebration will never be forgotten. May the Festival of Lights bring you luck, health, and peace, wherever you are.