What is Diwali?

What is Diwali?

Diwali is one of the biggest and most important Hindu festivals. It is sometimes also referred to as Deepavali, Dipavali, or Lakshmi Puja. Diwali symbolizes victory of good over evil, harmony over discord, and light over darkness. Traditionally, Diwali is celebrated after the middle of October or the end of October according to the traditional Hindu calendar in India and Nepal. Diwali is also celebrated by Hindus around the world including in Mauritius, Fiji Islands, and other areas with great fanfare and fervor.

In the Hindu tradition, Diwali marks the return of Lord Rama to Ayodhya after winning over Ravana’s Lanka (Sri Lanka).  The victory of Lord Rama’s love for Sita over Ravana’s ego is another aspect of the celebration that is observed during this time. The festival that celebrates this victory lasts for 10 days from Dhanteras to Kartik Poornima (the full moon night). Today, however, Diwali is generally celebrated only for 3 days.

The first day of Diwali marks the beginning of Tritiya Varsha or third season which symbolizes the arrival of springtime while Kartik Poornima signifies its end marking winter solstice. This celebration is also considered auspicious because it coincides with various other holidays including Bhai Duj (a festival celebrating brotherhood), Raksha Bandhan (a festival dedicated to sisters), and Guru Nanak Jayanti/Guru Gobind Singh Jayanti (birthday celebrations).

Diwali is celebrated by lighting diyas, candles, and rangolis (artistic powder arrangements on the floor or table top) on the eve of Diwali. The lights are a symbol of knowledge and wisdom. Diwali is also known as the festival of lights. During the Diwali holiday people take out time from their busy lives to celebrate with their family members. Further, Diwali celebrations include exchanging gifts between friends and relatives as well as rituals that mark the return to normalcy after the monsoon season which celebrates the triumph of good over evil!

Hindu Goddess Lakshmi (1896), by Raja Ravi Varma

In India, Diwali festivities start with Dhanteras (also known as Dhanatrayodashi) on Trayodashi (thirteenth day) of Kartik month according to traditional Hindu lunar calendar followed in North India. In South India, it is celebrated a few days later. This day marks the start of the fast for Lakshmi - the goddess of wealth and prosperity. On this day, people go to temples and pray for financial well-being for themselves and their families. They buy gold or silver items like coins, bangles and jewelry which they offer as gifts to God during pooja ceremonies at temples.

In Hinduism, the goddess Lakshmi is the consort of Lord Vishnu and she represents wealth, power and prosperity. She is worshiped on Amavasya or new moon day. On this day people clean up their homes, offices, and their local streets in their city.

On New Moon Day, women fast for one day to please Goddess Lakshmi who blesses them with all her wealth. Fasting signifies self-control over desires which is believed to help in earning more money than usual during Diwali celebrations.

On the second day of Diwali, also known as Naraka Chaturdashi or Chhoti Diwali, people observe Goverdhan Puja in some regions and Kali Puja in others. Goverdhan Puja is performed by people who worship Lord Ganesha. It is believed that Lord Ganesha was born on this day from the earth goddess Parvati’s body after she consumed a lotus flower. The name Goverdhan literally means cow-worshiper and it signifies that Lord Ganesha is very fond of cows and calves.

Kali Puja is performed by people who worship Goddess Kali or Durga Mata (another name for Goddess Kali). This day marks the end of nine days long festival called Navratri where Hindus celebrate Mother Goddess during these nine nights with various rituals like fasting, singing hymns, and prayers to please her before finally offering her fruits like bananas or apples dipped in sugar syrup at nightfall.

On the third day of Diwali popularly known as Balipratipada or Padwa, Bali puja is performed in several regions where Balinese folk stories are enacted through folk songs after the puja. Bali puja is a folk ritual that is performed in several regions of India.

In various parts of India, this day is celebrated with great zeal and enthusiasm by performing various arts and crafts such as rangoli (decorative patterns), tilak (symbolizing auspiciousness) on the forehead and sweets made from groundnut paste.

There are many traditions in celebrating Diwali but the main reason for the holiday is to celebrate our inner divine light over the ego and darkness within us. It is the inner light of goodness, positivity and happiness is celebrated every year during Diwali.

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