Diwali is one of the largest festivals found within Hindu tradition. Jains, Sikhs, and Buddhists also celebrate this festival (Dilwali).
It is a festival of happiness celebrated by Hindus all around the world. It is five continuous days, each day having an ideal or thought and being based on a legend. The legends differ based on what part of the world Diwali is being celebrated in (Festival). It is the harmony between these five ideas that makes Diwali such a special festival for Hindus (Diwali: Festival).
New clothes are worn, gifts are exchanged, and sweets are baked (Festival). Diwali translates into “row of lamps” and involves the lighting of small oil lamps, which signifies the victory of good over evil. Diwali is the Festival of Lights. It is known as the Festival of Lights because of the many lamps that are lit throughout its entirety (Festival).
Diwali is usually celebrated in October or November. It began as a harvest festival, thanking God for the crops they were given, and marking the last harvest before winter. In India, the blessing of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, is sought for agriculture. Hindus would pray for the success at the beginning of a new fiscal year. The day after the ending of Diwali marks the beginning of the new fiscal year.
Today, this is performed by Hindus and the residents on India (Diwali—National). The first day is Dhanteras and marks the beginning of Diwali. The root word, ‘Dhan,’ means wealth. Hindus worship the goddess Lakshmi this day for prosperity. Because of this, this day has become very significant for Hindu businesses. Houses and business are decorated to welcome Lakshmi.
Using rice flour, small foot prints are drawn around the homes to exemplify her long anticipated arrival (Diwali). Windows are left open to welcome Lakshmi in the home (Festival). Diyas are offered up to Lakshmi to drive away evil spirits and prayerful songs are sung to praise Lakshmi. The lighting of the diyas is said to bring good luck and is a symbol of personal illumination (Diwali). The legend behind Dhanteras is about the sixteen year of son of King Hima who was meant to die. He was to be bitten by a snake four days after he was married and on that night, his wife did not let him sleep.
Rather, she lit lamps, told stories, sang songs, and blocked the door with bags of gold and silver and ornaments. Yama Raj, the god of death, arrived disguised as a serpent and was blinded by the lights. He was unable to enter the room so he sat on the pile of ornaments and listened to the beautiful songs the wife was singing. Yama Raj left in the morning and the wife saved her husband from death. At sunset, Hindus bathe and offer up a diyas, or lamps, and sweets to Yama Raj (Diwali).
The diyas lit for Yama Raj are supposed to burn into the night in reverence and adoration of Yama. Hindus pray to him for protection from death. (Diwali: Festival). The second day is Choti Diwali. Many of the activities performed throughout the first day, such as decorating the home and worshiping Lakshmi and Rama, are also performed on the second day (Diwali).
This day honors the destruction of the demon Narakasur by Lord Krishna, which removed fear from the world (Diwali: Festival). Narakasur had stolen earrings from Lord Krishna’s wife and captured many daughters of the gods and saints. Lord Krishna’s wife was infuriated because of this and asked her husband to allow her to destroy Narakasur, which he permitted. Narakasur was beheaded and the daughters were released and married to Krishna. Lord Krishna spread the blood of the demon on his forehead and went home where women massaged his body with oils and bathed him (Diwali). To commemorate this, Hindus are supposed to massage their bodies with oil to rid it of tiredness, bathe, and rest, allowing them to celebrate the rest of Diwali with devotion (Diwali: Festival).
The third day is Lakshmi Puja and is the main day of celebration. On the third day, Hindus light candles and diyas and place them around their homes and fireworks are set off (Dilwali: Festival). Lighting these diyas shows the people’s honor and praise to God for the harvest and all that he has given them. In some villages, those celebrating this religion decorate and worship their cows because cows are seen as the incarnation of the goddess Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity (Diwali). Lakshmi Puja is a Hindu prayer sung in the evening to the Goddess Lakshmi for wealth and prosperity throughout one’s lifetime.
It contains of the worship of five gods: Ganesha, Lakshmi in her three forms, and Kuber (Diwali). Family and friends present gifts to each other on this night. The day of the festival is determined by the position of the moon. “No moon day” or Amavasya is considered the best day for the festival to be held on, usually in November of December. The candles are lit to drive away the darkness of Amavasya. The lighting of candles on the third day holds a special importance with Hindus.
To Hindus, darkness represents ignorance and the light represents knowledge. By lighting the candles, the ignorance and darkness is dispelled and destroyed. Through knowledge and light, violence, anger, injustice, suffering, and much more is scattered. Light also represents the beauty of the world and is seen as a gift from God. For this reason, Hindus view light as a symbol for what is good and positive in the world (Diwali: Festival).
Homes are meant to be kept clean and pure because Lakshmi is said to prefer cleanliness and visits the cleanest first. The lamps lit during the evening are meant to light Lakshmi’s path to the homes (Diwali). The fourth day is Padwa and Govardhan Puja. On this day, many families buy new clothing and visit family, presenting them with gifts and food.
This day is symbolic of the love between husband and wife and newly married couples are given presents and invited for a special meal. The fourth day is meant to commemorate Krishna lifting Mount Govardhan. The legend says that as the people celebrated a festival to honor Lord Indra, Lord Krishna stopped them. Angry, Lord Indra sent heavy rainfall and the people became afraid, ignoring Indra.
Lord Krishna then lifted the mountain top to shelter the people and ensure their safety. Annakoot, or mountain of food, is also performed to commemorate this. Many Hindus remain bake through the night to make a food offering for Krishna. While in the temples, the gods are given milk baths, dressed in bejeweled robes, and adorned with gems.
Prayers are recited and the baked goods are made into the shape of a mountain to offer the food to Krishna. Hindus then come to the mountain and accept a blessing from the gods (Diwali). The fifth and final day is Bhai Duj and marks the last day of Diwali. It is dedicated to sisters. Yama Raj, the Lord of Death, visited his sister on this day.
She placed a lucky mark on his head and they had a meal together. Yama Raj proclaimed that whoever receives a mark from his sister on his head, no harm can come onto the brother. Brothers then give their sister’s gifts to show their love and appreciation for them. This tradition is still followed today (Diwali). He also declared that whoever visited her on this day their sins would be reconciled and will be able to achieve Moksha.
From that day on, Hindu men have visited their sisters (Diwali: Festival). Diwali is incomplete without the last day because the fifth day is a celebration of the relationship of a brother and sister. The day consists of sharing food, giving gifts, and showing love from the deepest parts on one’s heart (Diwali). Sikhs and Jains also celebrate Diwali.
For the Sikhs, Diwali is celebrated as the return of the sixth guru from captivity. To celebrate this, they light the path towards the Golden Temple in his honor. Diwali is one of the most important festivals for the Jains, commemorating the nirvana of Lord Mahavira (Diwali: Festival). In Christianity, Diwali can be compared to Christmas. Light is a very important aspect within Christmas.
From the star that guided the shepherds to the manger to the lights hung on homes throughout the season, light is everywhere. Being in darkness has been associated with ignorance and fear, while being full of lights has been associated with understanding the true meaning of life. At this time, Christians are called to live in God’s light and spread his light and message to others (Festivals). Works Cited”Diwali Festival. ” Diwali Festival. Souledout, 2014.
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