Diwali, the Festival of Lights, is one of the most important holidays for my family as well as many Indian families around the world. It is a time to celebrate love, togetherness, abundance, and prosperity. During Diwali, these aspects of life are symbolised by the use of light that illuminates darkness. Like many cultures around the world, the lights we shine, whether it is a candle or a lamp, represent hope and the victory of good over evil. I want to share some of this light with you this Diwali.
Diwali, from the Sanskrit word Deepavali means ‘row of lights.' It is the largest celebration of the year in India. Traditionally, we use clay oil lamps, or diyas, to decorate and illuminate homes during the festive season. Even in modern Indian homes and families living in countries all around the world, some still use these traditional oil lamps. No matter how we decide to shine a light, this ceremony is a symbol to protect us from spiritual darkness.
Diwali has a storied and diverse history. In fact, from east to west and north to south, the holiday has a different story depending on where you are. Some legends say that Diwali was the culmination of battles where good triumphed over evil. Others venerate the Goddess Laxmi (the Goddess of Wealth) and pray for prosperity throughout the coming year. Regardless of background or beliefs, the holiday is typically celebrated over five days in late October or November, with each day being filled with light and love.
The first day of the festival is dedicated to cleaning the home from top to bottom and decorating for festivities. Families will often go out and shop for small items of gold on this day as well, which is thought to bring good fortune.
On the second day, lamps are placed in rows in the home, on temple parapets and businesses. People will also create elaborate designs and patterns called rangoli on interior and exterior floors in the home. Rangoli represents happiness, liveliness, and positivity at home, and is often made from coloured sand, flower petals and rice and serves as a welcome to the goddess Lakshmi. Doors and windows are also left often in the hopes of blessings and good fortune.
The third day of Diwali, or Lakshmi Puja, is the height of the festival and includes the family gatherings for large feasts and sometimes, the exchange of gifts. There is also a spiritual component which varies with individual beliefs.
Officially the first day of the new year, this day is celebrated differently all over India but generally, friends and relatives visit and give their best wishes for the season.
Bhai Dooj, the fifth day of Diwali, is marked for the bond between siblings. Sisters invite their brothers to their homes for lavish meals and pray for them to have success, well-being, and prosperity in the coming year.
Each of the five days is different and significant but as a whole, Diwali is a time to come together and enjoy the company of others while welcoming in the new year with positivity and love. Regardless of what your family believes in, or how you celebrate, the one common message is that Diwali is a time to ward off darkness and bring about light.
Here’s to wishing you and your loved ones a very Happy Diwali! May you feel the warmth of light, brightening up your upcoming New Year.