Diwali: A Celebration Traced Back To Ancient India


Diwali: The Festival of Lights

Diwali, also known as Deepavali, is the biggest and brightest of all Hindu festivals. The name "Diwali" is derived from the Sanskrit word "dipavali", which means "row of lights". This festival is as important to Hindus as the Christmas holiday is to Christians.

Historically, Diwali can be traced back to ancient India, where it most likely began as an important harvest festival. However, there are various legends pointing to the origin of Diwali. Some believe it to be the celebration of the marriage of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, with Lord Vishnu. Others use it as a celebration of her birthday, as Lakshmi is said to have been born on the new-moon day of Kartik. In Bengal, the festival is dedicated to the worship of Mother Kali, the dark goddess of strength. Lord Ganesha —the elephant-headed god and symbol of auspiciousness and wisdom—is also worshiped in most Hindu homes on this day.

In Jainism, Deepawali has an added significance of marking the great event of Lord Mahavira attaining the eternal bliss of nirvana. Diwali also commemorates the return of Lord Rama (along with Ma Sita and Lakshman) from his 14-year-long exile and vanquishing the demon-king Ravana. In joyous celebration of the return of their king, the people of Ayodhya, the capital of Rama, illuminated the kingdom with earthen diyas (oil lamps) and set off firecrackers.

Diwali is marked by four days of celebration, which literally illuminates the country with its brilliance and dazzles people with its joy. Each day has its own tale to tell:

1. Naraka Chaturdasi: This marks the vanquishing of the demon Naraka by Lord Krishna and his wife Satyabhama.

2. Amavasya: This day marks the worship of Lakshmi when she is in her most benevolent mood, fulfilling the wishes of her devotees. It also tells the story of  Vishnu who, in his dwarf incarnation, vanquished the tyrant Bali and banished him to hell.

The festival occurs in late October or early November. It falls on the 15th day of the Hindu month of Kartik, so it varies every year.

The festival gets its name from the row (avali) of clay lamps (deepa) that Indians light outside their homes to symbolize the inner light that protects from spiritual darkness. The holiday celebrates the victory of light over darkness, good over evil and knowledge over ignorance.

Diwali is a time for family gatherings, food, celebrations, and prayers. It's a time when people clean their homes, decorate with lights and rangoli (a form of Indian floor art), exchange gifts, and enjoy feasts and sweets.

Source: Conversation with Bing, 11/1/2023

Image sourced from Google Images 

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