By Dhalia Lewis —
Global peace, love, and understanding are to be celebrated, and India honors
those traits through their holiday of Diwali. Diwali, meaning “the festival of
lights,” is an ancient Hindu festival and the biggest holiday in India. It is an
extravagant celebration that spans over five days and where people cast
millions of lights with lamps, fireworks, and strings of electric lights, all
throughout the cities. They symbolize light and goodness triumphing over
darkness and evil.
The name Diwali derives from the row of clay lamps (deepa), which Indians
place around and on top of houses to protect their inner lights from spiritual
darkness. The holiday is celebrated each year on either October or November, but it actually began as a harvest festival seeking blessings from Lakshmi, goddess of wealth, for fortune in finances, agriculture, businesses, etc. Because of its economical impact, Diwali also marks the first day of the new financial year.
As the first day begins (Dhanteras), people prepare their homes by cleaning, refurbishing, and decorating. They also prepare by purchasing new and expensive clothing and jewelry for the family and items for the house. On the second day (Naraka Chaturdasi), the men begin placing light fixtures throughout the house, whereas the women and children start creating colorful floor patterns called rangoli, using colored powders or sand. The third day (Lakshmi Puja) is the main festival day. Families put on their new clothes and light all the lamps as an offering to deity Lakshmi, asking for blessings for the upcoming new year. It is also a day to recognize the mothers’ important role in the household and to honor long-lasting friendships.
On the fourth day (Padwa), the celebration occurs between husbands and
wives, where the men give thoughtful gifts to their spouses. Then the final fifth day (Bhai Duj), brothers and sisters repay back their gratitude towards one another on this special day. The women also gather to perform a puja with prayers for their brothers, and there is an evening of gift exchange and a feast.
Though originally a Hindu festival, Diwali’s message of love and peace has transcended to various other religions in India so that now participants in the festival also includes Buddhists and Sikhs. The common thread is between all the religions’ desire to celebrate good over evil. The main philosophy is that attaining higher knowledge will awaken the mind to love and feel compassion towards on another, doing away with all ignorance and the evil that it brings. Overall, Diwali is a holiday to celebrate the inner light from darkness and grow in love with family and friends.
Thought it is a holiday that originated and celebrated in India, the message is universal and a theme of good triumphing over evil that can be celebrated by all.