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One of the oldest and the widest celebrated festivals, Diwali occupies a special place in the Hindu calendar. The word Diwali meaning "festival of lights" springs from the original Sanskrit word "Deepavali" which means a row or series of lights. If an aerial picture of an area is clicked on the night of this festival, the view would be that of brightly-illuminated land.
Diwali 2016 Date
When is Diwali? : Sunday, October 30
Although Diwali is an extended five-day celebration, the main festival falls eighteen days after Dussehra. It is towards the latter half of the year in the months of October and November that the festival takes place. According to the Hindu calendar of the year 2016, the darkest night is falling on October 30 in the month Kartik, and this day will be marked as Diwali this year.
Five Days of Diwali
The fact that makes this festival so popular and significant is the series of rituals which are not confined to just a single day. People usually begin the preparations weeks before the festival, commencing with the renovation of houses and work places; cleaning and painting of buildings; shopping for decoration of houses, gifts for the loved ones, new clothes and several other things required to enjoy the festival. Houses and workplaces are adorned with flowers, jhaalars, kandils, etc. Rangolis of flowers and dried powdered colours brighten the entrances of several households. The following five days together make this festival complete:
The five days merriment starts off with Dhanteras. Buildings are decked with rows of neon lights and people come out in the markets to purchase gold, silver or at least one new kitchen ware as part of the Dhanteras ritual. Along with the celebration of the birth of Goddess Lakshmi who is the Goddess of wealth and prosperity, it is also a day of the birth of Goddess Dhanvantari, the keeper of health and healing. Some people believe it to be the day when the forces of good and evil churn the cosmic ocean of milk.
Commonly known as Chhoti Diwali, Naraka Chaturdasi is the second day of the celebration. It is the time for extensive house cleaning, decoration and making colourful floor (Rangoli) and Henna patterns. Towns and cities witness the beginning of socialisation from this day. The scene of most of India is usually that of people buying gifts, visiting relatives and friends and exchanging pleasantries.
The third day is considered the main event of the five days celebrations. The main rituals and rites are performed on the evening of Diwali with puja offered to Goddess Lakshmi, Lord Ganesha, Goddess Saraswati and Lord Kuber and other gods, varying as per different communities. It is believed that on the night of Diwali, Goddess of wealth Lakshmi visits the Earth. To acknowledge her presence and to invite her blessings to one's house, people light diyas on their doors, windows, verandahs and balconies. This is followed with children and adults dressed in their best fineries coming out of their houses and burning fire crackers.
This day additionally marks the beginning of New Year as per the Vikram Samvat calendar and owing to this traders and merchants begin their new fiscal year with the blessings of Goddess Lakshmi and Lord Kuber.
The day after Diwali is observed as Padwa which is taken as an opportunity to celebrate the institution of marriage. The exchange of gifts takes place between husbands and wives. Some families also follow a ritual, as part of Padwa celebration, where the brother of a woman brings his sister home for celebrations from her marital home. Several regions are known to pay devotion to Lord Krishna on this sacred day by performing Goverdhan Puja.
Bhai Duj or Bhaiya Dooj
The festivities end with the celebration of the bond between brothers and sisters. Often known as Bhai Duj or Bhaiya Dyyuj, this merriment is labelled "Tika" in some regions of India. Similar to Raksha Bandhan but with different rites and rituals, Bhai Duj becomes an occasion when siblings and cousins take time out to spend with each other. Many communities revel by feasting together and with the sisters acknowledging the love and trust of the brother-sister relationship by adorning the foreheads of the brothers with vermilion and dry rice. It signifies their prayers for the well-being of their brothers which are duly returned with same warmth in the form of gifts by brothers.
Beliefs on Diwali
Like most Hindu festivals, Diwali too is believed to be the celebration of triumph of good over evil. Owing to its universal beliefs, Diwali is celebrated by Jain and Sikh communities as well. Believers see this day as the one where love takes over despair, light defeats darkness and knowledge asserts its supremacy over ignorance. As per the three major philosophical schools of Hinduism, i.e., Vedanta, Yoga and Samkhya, the Atman is known to be beyond the physical existence. Expressing the transcendental side of Hinduism, this belief holds importance for the festival of Diwali as it is understood to be the unveiling of the true knowledge of one's real nature, giving way to spiritual awakening.
As Diwali is an ancient festival, most of the Puranas and other religious scriptures of Hindus are full of references to it. The Skanda Purana describes divas or lamps as symbols of parts of the Sun (the cosmic benefactor of energy and light to all living beings), which changes seasonally during the Hindu month of Kartik.
Significance of Diwali
India is a land where societal living and community interactions have had boundless significance in the past but owing to the urbanisation, race for development and individual successes, interactions among people have seen considerable decrease. In such a scenario, Diwali has taken another level of significance and has become the reason and the binding force which brings together people of cities and villages alike.
With the spirit of joy, of lighting the lamp of self-knowledge and enthusiasm remaining common, the regional practices of celebrations differ according to the resources and beliefs marked by demographic transitions.
Why Is Diwali Celebrated?
Diwali is a celebration of the return of the lord Rama with his wife Sita and brother Lakshman from an exile of fourteen years, according to the epic the Ramayana.
Certain northern regions of India celebrate Diwali as the day of offering devotion to Goddess Lakshmi whereas the Eastern regions emphasise on Kali Puja.
Diwali holds special significance in Jainism. It is the day which commemorates the attainment of Nirvana by Lord Mahavira.
Sikhs indulge in festivities on Diwali as it was this day when Guru Har Gobind Ji freed himself from the imprisonment of Jahangir and had returned to the Golden Temple, Amritsar. Called by the name Bandi Chhor Divas, this festival is observed by Sikhs with utmost devotion.
How Diwali is Celebrated in India
The celebration of Diwali extends from the lighting of lamps; decoration of houses; performance of Puja; preparation and consumption of sweets and other regional specialties; exchange of gifts to the telling of myths and legends to children and burning of fire crackers.
The increasing awareness of environmental degradation has, however, changed the manner in which the celebrations are carried out. Many responsible families in India have been observing pollution-free Diwali for many years where the glee is limited to good social practices. Not only do schools and education institutes discourage children from the combustion of fire crackers, the media, the government and parents also play a significant role in spreading awareness about the ill-effects of air pollution caused due to burning of fire crackers.
Last Updated on : October 7, 2016