Diwali, the Festival of Lights

Mar/17/2022 / by Melanie Fourie
Diwali
Image credits: Udayaditya Barua via Pexels

Diwali is one of the most commonly observed celebrations for persons of Indian heritage in the United States and across the globe.

What is Diwali?

Deepavali, which means “row of lights” in Sanskrit, is a yearly celebration of the triumph of illumination over darkness, victory over evil, and wisdom over obscurity. Friends and family get together at this time of year for a time of celebration and preparation for the new year to come.

The History Behind Diwali 

Ayodhya’s Prince Rama, his spouse Sita, and sibling Lakshman’s return to Ayodhya after a 14-year banishment is celebrated on Diwali. Rama is regarded as an embodiment of Lord Vishnu as well as a model of morality in the Hindu faith. Goddess Lakshmi takes the form of Sita in her human form. Lighting lamps to commemorate the king and queen’s homecoming was an essential feature of celebrations in Ayodhya at the time and is also an essential part of festivities today.

Other cultures celebrate Diwali as the anniversary of Krishna’s victory over Narakasura, and it falls on the same day as the Hindu New Year in various parts of India. Many individuals, however, enjoy the holiday as a time to spend time with loved ones, eat, and look forward to the new year to come.

How is Celebrated?

There are many ways to celebrate the holiday, but it’s often a time to spend time with loved ones, do gestures of dana (charitable works and service), decorate the house, participate in religious rituals, string up lights, and ponder on one’s core beliefs. The celebrations might last for up to five days, each with its unique meaning.

In honor of the goddess Lakshmi, people clean their homes and decorate with rangolis or kolams, colorful designs drawn with powder, rice, sand, or flowers on the floor. They like to go shopping and create Indian delights to share with their friends and family.

‘Small Diwali’ or ‘Chhoti Diwali’ is the second day of the three-day festival of lights, which is also known as ‘Kalichaudas.’ Many people also light diyas, or clay lamps, as a way to pray for the spirits of the deceased.

On the third and grandest day of Diwali, people wear new clothing, visit temples to do a puja, or devotion ceremony, light garlands and perhaps other lights about the home, and celebrate with fireworks. Meeting with loved ones, dining, and engaging in betting, particularly card games, are all part of the festivities during this season of year.

In many parts of India, the fourth day of Diwali is the initial day of the New Year, a chance to reflect on the year that has passed, look forward to the one that lies ahead, and exchange modest presents with family and friends. To ring in the new year in a successful manner, some individuals do pujas. To commemorate the devotion between Rama and Sita, this day may also be devoted to spouses.

On the the last day of Diwali, family members are encouraged to visit each other and have a meal together as a celebration of the link between sibling.

Diwali Foods 

Indian sweets, known as’mithai,’ vary from other nations’ confections in that they are seen as more like “sweet meats.” As a basis, many compress nuts or vegetables with sugar and milk, which is often added.

Little balls of flour, ghee or oil, sugar, and sometimes nuts or fruit like raisins are known as laddu (or laddoo). Chickpea flour, for example, is a typical substitute for wheat flour. Grated vegetables are often used to make halwa, such as carrots or pumpkins, which are then cooked in ghee, sugar, and milk or condensed milk until they are soft, sweet, and thick. Almonds, cardamon, or other nuts may be used to flavor it.

Vegetable and spice-filled samosas are a staple of the Indian cuisine. Rice cake known as idli, as well as a ghee-fried flatbread called puri is often enjoyed too. 

FAQs

What’s the difference between Diwali and Deepavali?

For the most part, Diwali is a five-day celebration celebrated in north India, while Deepavali lasts four days and is mostly observed by southern Indian states.