Marking the victory of light over darkness, good over evil, knowledge over ignorance, and hope over despair, Diwali (or Deepavali) is a moment of reflection, a time of giving and a chance to celebrate it together with the people you love.
Diwali, also known as the festival of lights, is the biggest festival celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists around the world. As per India’s official holiday calendar, Diwali in 2017 falls on October 19, coinciding with the 15th day of Kartik, the holiest month in the Hindu lunar calendar. In southern India and in Singapore, Diwali is observed on October 18, which is also an official holiday in Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka and the Sindh province in Pakistan. In the Gregorian calendar, the Diwali festival always falls between mid-October and mid-November.
What does Diwali commemorate? Hindus celebrate the triumph of good over evil – of light over darkness – to mark the return of Ram, the lord of virtue, to his kingdom after 14 years of exile. Followers of Jainism commemorate Mahavira, a venerated ascetic who fundamentally reformed the faith, reaching a state of nirvana after his death. Sikhs use Diwali to mark the anniversary of the release from prison of Guru Hargobind in 1619. For Buddhists, this day represents the time Emperor Ashoka gave up everything and adopted a path of peace after going through bloodshed and death. The day is observed as Ashok Vijayadashami.
How is Diwali celebrated? Traditional earthen diyas or candles are lit, and nowadays, fireworks are set off. Houses are cleaned and decorated with colourful rangoli artworks – patterns created on the floor using coloured rice or powder. Throughout India and in Indian communities, people wear new clothes, visit friends and family, and exchange sweets and gifts. There is also a strong belief in giving to those in need. A special “puja” prayer is dedicated to the goddess of fertility and prosperity Lakshmi in the evening. She is said to bring good luck.
The name of festive days, as well as the rituals of Diwali, vary significantly among Hindus, based on the region of India. In many parts of India, the festivities start with Dhanteras (in Northern and Western part of India), followed by Naraka Chaturdasi on second day, Deepavali on the third day, Diwali Padva dedicated to wife–husband relationship on the fourth day, and festivities end with Bhai Dooj dedicated to sister–brother bond on the fifth day.