It is the Festival of Lights! On the 3rd day of November, Hindus, Jains and Sikhs mark the annual celebration of Diwali (also known as Divali and Deepavali) festivities. The celebration is immensely festive with rows and rows of bright lights adorning houses and streets in India and in other parts of the world where there are Hindu communities. It is a solemn occasion as well, as ceremonies are held to memorialize the symbolism of light being a victory of good over evil and knowledge over obscurity.
In the following countries, Diwali is considered a holiday: India, Guyana, Fiji, Malaysia, Myanmar, Mauritius, Nepal, Singapore, Suriname, Sri Lanka, and Trinidad & Tobago.
Row of lights
Diwali! What does the word represent? It is derived from the Sanskrit term deepavali, which refers to a long queue of lights. It is one of the significant festivals of Hindus, welcomed with much joy and devotion. Preparations before the big day starts by tidying up and decorating the home. The lighting of oil lamps (diyas) and candles all over the house highlights the tradition, followed by exploding firecrackers, giving away of mouth-watering delicacies and more fun-filled merry making. Families and friends gather together for the celebration that lasts for five consecutive days. What bliss!
Hindu religious offering
In a traditional Hindu community, people come together to offer prayers to Sita and Rama, Radha and Khrisha. Wishes are directed to Lakshmi, the goddess of richness and Ganesh, the god of auspiciousness or luck. Diwali is also recognized as a new beginning that marks the start of another cycle and a new year. “Shubh Diwali” is the usual greeting that fills the air as Hindus wish one another good tidings and continued blessings. Toward the end of the day people are not about to stop celebrating as they perform Laxmi Puja in the evening to seek grace from the Goddess of Wealth. Family members and close associations exchange gifts with one another toward the end of the festival.
Under Sikh custom, Diwali is observed as the day when Emperor Jahangir of Mughal Empire released Guru Hargobind, the sixth Sikh Guru from imprisonment. It is said that when Guru Hargobind was set free, his followers lit numerous oil lamps in celebration of his freedom. To commemorate this important occasion, Sikhs light oil lamps and read verses from the Sikh holy book called Guru Granth Sahib.
For the Jains, Diwali stands for the rebirth of spiritual knowledge by Lord Mahavira, the 24th Tirhankara of Jainism. Mahavira founded the core of the Jain belief that is perpetuated to this day. The Jains commemorate Diwali by lighting lamps, fasting, doing charitable deeds and giving away of sweet treats.
Every year, the date of festivity varies according to the Hindu calendar. The exact day is determined by the position of the moon during this particular period of the year. Usually, a “moonless day” is designated as the perfect time for Diwali celebration that generally occurs between the months of November and December.
Spreading the light
More people are joining the tradition of Diwali festival. As the Hindus, Jains and Sikhs celebrating side by side in their respective communities share the light of life in their homes, they spread the spirit of goodness, health, happiness and enlightenment to the world. The revelry spreads and transcends a whole culture as more lights are lit all over the globe.
Let there be light for everyone.
Happy Diwali to our Hindu, Jain and Sikh
brothers and sisters everywhere in the world!