WHAT IS DIWALI?
Deepavali, commonly known as Diwali, occurs 20 days after Dussehra. Many myths, gods and goddesses are associated with the festival. As per the most popular myth, Diwali marks the return of Lord Rama, his brother Lakshmana and wife Sita after 14 years in exile. He returns after defeating the Lankan King Ravana who had abducted Sita. Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, and Ganesha, the god of good beginnings, are worshipped on this festival. People light lamps, decorate their homes, draw intricate floor patterns in an art form known as rangoli, exchange gifts and set off fireworks in celebration.
WHY DO THEY CELEBRATE IT?
Deepavali is a portmanteau of the words deepa, meaning “lamp”, and avali, meaning “row.” During Deepavali, or Diwali, the celebrators light rows of lamps that line the outside of their homes. The deepas symbolize the light that protects each household from spiritual darkness.
While the significance of Diwali and the myths associated with it vary by region, the common theme of the festival is the victory of light over darkness. These myths focus on righteousness, self-inquiry and, according to noted scholar Lindsey Harlan, the importance of knowledge as the path to overcome “the darkness of ignorance.”
Diwali celebrates the harvest following the monsoon rains in the Indian subcontinent. Most households worship Lakshmi because she symbolizes wealth and prosperity, fertility and abundant crops, and good fortune.
HOW IS IT CELEBRATED?
The festivities associated with Diwali involve cleaning homes, decorating them with lamps, creating colorful rangolis, setting off firecrackers, exchanging gifts and worshiping various gods and goddesses. People consume sweets, shop intensively and reconnect with friends and family.