Deepawali or Diwali, referring to diyas or clay lamps, is the biggest festival in the Hindu calendar.
The lights symbolize the lifting of spiritual darkness and the victory of righteousness. Flames, electric lights, and small clay oil lamps are symbols of the physical and spiritual aspects of light.
During Diwali, Hindus retell the story of Prince Rama, the Hindu god, Vishnu, in human form. When Rama refuses to acknowledge that he was wrong about some issue, his father instructed him to leave his kingdom and live in exile for 14 years.
While Rama was away, his wife, Sita, was kidnapped by a fearsome king, Ravana. Rama fights for Sita, triumphantly bringing her back to his kingdom of Ayodha. On that moonless night, the citizens lit thousands of glowing oil lights to welcome him home.
Hindus annually celebrate this story of good conquering evil by lighting lamps. The Goddess Lakshmi, Vishnu's consort, is also worshipped on Diwali. She symbolizes wealth and prosperity.
In southern India, the Diwali festival celebrates the conquering of a king of Assam who imprisoned many people. Krishna supposedly freed the prisoners from the tyrant, Asura Naraka.
- Many Buddhists in India commemorate Ashoka's conversion to Buddhism around the time of Diwali.
- Many Jains celebrate the founder of Jainism, Mahavir's attainment of nirvana during the Festival of Lights.
- The Sikhs celebrate Bandi Chorh Divas when the sixth Nanak's (Guru Har Gobind) returned from detention in the Gwalior Fort.
How people celebrate
People celebrate Diwali for up to five days, preparing in advance by cleaning their homes and yards.
They bathe in fragrant oils and wear new clothes. They decorate their house and workplaces with tiny electric lights or small clay oil lamps and floating candles and flowers in bowls of water.
There could be fireworks displays, or even fairs arranged.
The Exchange of Gifts during Diwali
Diwali is the time to shop and exchange gifts with loved ones and friends, celebrating love and prosperity. A particular thought goes into what to give to promote friendship and fellowship. Items such as jewelry, new clothes, sweets, oil lamps, and firecrackers are very welcome.
Decorative items, such as paintings, flower vases, hanging bells, and flower vases, are very welcome during this time since people are decorating their homes. Look at our store for some great ideas.
Written by Elsa Dixon, Ph.D | Travels with Elsa