Diwali is an annual Hindu festival that represents the triumph of good against evil and light over darkness. It is more commonly known outside of India as the Festival of Lights, one of the most colorful and extravagant celebrations, steeped in Hindu culture and beliefs. Diwali is one of the means by which Hindu traditions are kept alive and for the younger generation to stay in touch with their culture.
If you’re traveling to India during this time of the year, do remember that the extent of the celebration depends on where you are at the particular time. If you are in one of the affluent urban areas, the celebration is often more flamboyant, with more color, activities (including ceremonial gambling), fireworks and gift giving. In the more sedate rural areas, the celebrations tend to be more traditional, with simple family feasts and modest offerings.
Celebrating Diwali is not exclusive to Hindus. Other religious groups, such as Newar Buddhists, Sikhs and Jais celebrate Diwali as well. While their religious belief may differ, the meaning of Diwali for all of them is the same.
This year (2018), Diwali is going to be celebrated in southern India on November 6 while northern India will celebrate the Festival of Lights on November 7.
Meaning of the name: Diwali, which is called Divali, Deepavali or Dipavali, means a row of lamps. Aside from the other previously mentioned meanings, Diwali can also symbolize knowledge conquering ignorance.
Traditional preparations for Diwali
Diwali is celebrated during springtime in the southern hemisphere, which coincides with fall season in the northern hemisphere. It typically takes five days for the preparation, rituals and the celebration of Diwali. The most important one is the third day, which is the darkest night in Kartika, the Hindu lunisolar month. In a lunisolar calendar, the phases of the moon are used to divide the year. The length can be adjusted depending on the cycle of the sun. In the Gregorian calendar, the celebration of Diwali typically occurs between the middle of October and the middle of November.
Day 1 – Dhanteras
Weeks before the event, Hindus will be cleaning their homes from top to bottom, inside and out. They will do repairs, paint their homes and generally spruce up their dwellings and offices so they will be worthy to receive Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth.
On the 13th day of Kartika, they will put out their earthen oil lamps called diyas. The women prepare colored sand, flower petals and rice flour to create the colourful and intricate designs called rangolis for the doorways of homes and offices. The men will decorate the walls and roofs of their homes, temples, markets and offices.
Families (depending on their budget) typically buy gold, jewelry, new clothes, utensils, firecrackers, home equipment and various other items on Dhanteras.
In the evening, they will light the lamps, offer prayers, food and sweets to Ganesha and Lakshmi.
Day 2 – Choti Diwali (Naraka Chaturdasi)
The second day, called Choti Diwali, is marked with prayers and rituals. Families spend the day buying the food and special sweets in varied shapes they will share with family and friends. Families will prepare their homemade specialties, visit relatives, friends, neighbors and business associates, which often includes the exchange of gifts. Diwali is somewhat similar in activities to Christmas or New Year.
Remember this: In Karnataka, Goa and Tamil Nadu, the second day is celebrated as Diwali Day.
Day 3 – Diwali Day
This is the most exciting and awesome part of the Diwali festival. People will be wearing their newly bought clothes. They will also ensure that their houses are very clean, as they believe that Lakshmi will be very happy to visit the cleanest houses first. The third day or Diwali Day is the time to worship (puja) Lakshmi. In the evening, all the diyas placed on balconies and windowsills are lit, literary turning the areas into festivals of lights. Offerings of food and sweets are part of the puja, which involves an intricate ritual. Doors are left open to welcome Lakshmi.
After they have done the puja, Hindus will troop to the streets to light up their fireworks (patakhe). Afterwards, everyone goes back home to enjoy their festive food.
On this day, the hard work of mothers throughout the year is recognized by the family. The youngest members of every family visit older relatives and community members. Some business owners take this time to present bonuses or gifts to their employees.
Another thing to note: While other religious celebrations typically involve fasting, during Diwali, Hindus indulge in a feast.
Day 4 – Annakut (Padwa or Govardhan puja)
The darkness of the nights during the first three days of the festival ushers in the brightness of the coming days. On the fourth day or Annakut, the bonds between husbands and wives are celebrated. Typically, the husbands present their wives with gifts while in some areas, they are treated to a festive meal by the family.
Day 5 – Bhai Duj (Bhaiya Dooj)
Bhai Duj is the day to honor the bonds between brothers and sisters. On this day, brothers travel to meet their sisters. Female family members pray and make offerings to their gods to request for the safety of their brothers. Later, they will hand-feed their brothers. In turn, the brothers present their sisters with gifts.
Earlier we mentioned ceremonial gambling. According to their belief, gambling is an auspicious activity when celebrating Diwali. It seems that during ancient times, a Hindu deity gambled with his consort and the woman won. Today, some communities still observe the activity and play card games for fun and a small amount of money.
These are some of the most essential things you ought to know about Diwali, a very colorful and wonderful Hindu tradition that you should not miss if you are in India in the fall.
We at Day Translations, Inc. wish you and your family a great time. We hope that the lights will guide you and shine brightly around you.
If you need high-quality translation from English or any other language to Hindi to greet your Hindu friends and associates, count on us to give you the most accurate translation you can expect. We are open 24/7, every day of the year, so you can have your message translated in time before Diwali. You can contact us at 1-800-969-6853 or send us an email at Contact us and bring cheer to your friends and colleagues in India.