Diwali – Festival of Lights
According to wikipedia: Diwali (also spelled Devali in certain regions) or Deepavali, known as the “festival of lights,” is a five day festival which starts on Dhanteras, celebrated on thirteenth lunar day of Krishna paksha (dark fortnight) of the Hindu calendar month Ashwin and ends on Bhaubeej, celebrated on second lunar day of Shukla paksha (bright fortnight) of the Hindu calendar month Kartik. In the Gregorian calendar, Diwali falls between mid-October and mid-November. Diwali is an official holiday in India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Mauritius, Guyana, Trinidad & Tobago, Suriname, Malaysia, Singapore and Fiji.
For Hindus, Diwali is one of the most important festivals of the year and is celebrated in families by performing traditional activities together in their homes. For Jains, Diwali marks the attainment of moksha or nirvana by Mahavira in 527 BCE.
The name “Diwali” or “Divali” is a contraction of “Deepavali” (Sanskrit: D?p?val?), which translates into “row of lamps”. Diwali involves the lighting of small clay lamps (d?pa in Sanskrit: De-ep) filled with oil to signify the triumph of good over evil. These lamps are kept on during the night and one’s house is cleaned, both done in order to make the goddess Lakshmi feel welcome. Firecrackers are burst in order to drive away evil spirits. During Diwali, all the celebrants wear new clothes and share sweets and snacks with family members and friends.
The festival starts with Dhanteras on which most Indian business communities begin their financial year. The second day of the festival is called the Naraka Chaturdasi. Amavasya, the third day of Diwali, marks the worship of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. The fourth day of Diwali is known as Kartika Shudda Padyami. The fifth day is referred to as Yama Dvitiya (also called Bhai Dooj), and on this day sisters invite their brothers to their homes.
Hindus have several significant events associated with Diwali:
- The return of Rama after 14 years of Vanvas (exile). To welcome his return, diyas (ghee lamps) were lit in rows of 20.
- The killing of Narakasura: Celebrated as Naraka Chaturdashi, one day before Diwali, it commemorates the killing of the evil demon Narakasura, who wreaked havoc. Krishna’s wife Satyabhama killed Narakasura during the Dwapara yuga. In another version of the belief, the demon was killed by Krishna or Krishna provoked his wife Satyabhama to kill Narshna, defeating Indradebated with the villagers about what their ‘dharma’ truly was. They were farmers, they should do their duty and concentrate on farming and protection of their cattle. He said that all human beings should do their ‘karma’ to the best of their ability and not pray for natural phenomenon. The villagers were convinced by Krishna, and did not proceed with the special puja (prayer). Indra was then angered, and flooded the village. Krishna lifted Mount Govardhan and held it up to protect the people and cattle from the rain. Indra finally accepted defeat and recognized Krishna as supreme. Although this aspect of Krishna’s life is sometimes ignored it sets up the basis of the ‘karma’ philosophy later detailed in the Bhagavat Gita.
- Return of Pandavas after 12 years of Vanvas and one year of agyatavas (living incognito)