Diwali

By: Aisling Koh T1

What is Diwali?

Diwali is one of the major religious festivals in Hinduism. It is as important to Hindus, as Christmas is for Christians. The word "Diwali" is derived from the Sanskrit word "Dipavali" meaning "row of lights". This is why many people refer to Diwali as the "Festival of Lights". Diwali lasts five days, and the fourth day is the day the main festivals are celebrated. The fourth day also marks the beginning of a new year in the Hindu calender. This is also known as the New Moon Day of Kartik. The Hindu calender is a religious calender unlike the one in America. In America, Diwali falls in late October or November. According to tradition, Diwali is celebrated for the return of Rama, Sita, and Hanuman to Ayodhya from the journey they had in the Hindu Epic of Ramayana. Rama and his wife, Sita, return to rule their country, and Rama returns a hero for saving Sita from the demon king Ravana. The people of Ayodhya light the way for them and welcome them home with lights. They have a joyous celebration for their homecoming. People also celebrate Diwali for the goddess Lakshmi. She was incarnated on the New Moon Day of Kartik, which is why it became a tradition to celebrate her at this time. Lakshmi is the goddess of wealth and prosperity. This is why Diwali also marks the start of a new financial year. Merchants and storekeepers see Diwali with special enthusiasm because it honors Lakshmi and it brings luck for the upcoming year.
From a Hindu coloring book for children, Rama and Sita are returning home to the city of Ayodhya, and the people welcome them home with brightly lit lamps.

How do people celebrate Diwali?

Diwali is a time for visiting friends and family, exchanging gifts, decorating houses, feasting, and wearing new clothes. Many people gamble during this time because it represents the games of dice that Shiva and his wife, Parvati, played. They also think gambling will give you good luck for the upcoming year. People who practice Hinduism see DIwali as a time to reflect upon our lives. They are encouraged to get rid of bad behaviors. Examples of this are jealousy, greed, or laziness. It is a time for people to see the good in people even those you do not like. This is very similar to New Years in America. People light small lamps filled with oil and shine them in rows along and inside houses and temples. Lamps are also set adrift on streams and rivers. These small oil lamps are called diye. Diye are also put on windowsills, staircases, and parapets which are low walls. Colorful candles are also put next to diye. During festivals, fireworks light up the night sky. People also put beautiful rangoli art around their homes. Some rangoli art are created by the people themselves. On the third day of Diwali, people worship goddess Lakshmi and offer prayers to her. This is so she can bless them with wealth and prosperity in the upcoming year.
A Hindu girl sits in her yard during Diwali among lit Diye.

Did You Know?

On the fourth day of Diwali in Nepal, people worship Yama, the god of death, for longer lives.

How do other Religions Celebrate Diwali?

Although Diwali is mainly celebrated for Hindus, other religions like Jainism and Sikhism also celebrate Diwali. Diwali is observed by 800 million followers of different beliefs. For Jains, Diwali is known as "Deva Diwali". It marks the death of Mahavira who was the last of the Saints who found Jainism. The Jains light the lamps as a substitute for the light that was put out with Mahavira's death. They also light the lamps as a symbol that their master's knowledge will always be kept alive. Like Hindu's do, Jains celebrate Diwali as a New Years day or the First Moon Day of Kartik. In Sikihism, Diwali has been celebrated since the 18th century. This time represents when Guru Hargobind, who recieved Moksha or Nirvana during the time of Diwali, returned to Amritsar from captivity in Gvalior. He was released from prison in Gvalior along with 52 other princes. To celebrate this, Sikhs light up the Golden Temple.

Did You Know?

Sikhs prefer not to use fireworks during Diwali because of noise, atmosphere pollution, and risk of accidental injuries and deaths.

Sources

1) "Diwali" Encyclopedia Britannica Online Edition.


Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc. 2012. Web 24 Apr. 2013


<http://school.eb.com/eb/article-9030695>


2) "Infoplease Article." Fact Monster.

Pearson Education, publishing as Fact Monster.

29 Apr. 2013 <http://www.factmonster.com/spot/diwali1.html>.


3) "Diwali, Indian Festival" India Net Zone.

Jupiter Infomedia Ltm. 27 Nov 2011

<http://www.indianetzone.com/1/diwali.htm>


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4) "BBC-religions" BBC

BBC (company)

20 Oct. 2011

<http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/sikhism/holydays/diwali.shtml"