Diwali: The Festival of Lights

Diwali, or Deepawali, is a Hindu festival celebrating the triumph of good over evil.  Sometimes called the ‘Festival of Lights’, the word Diwali literally translates as ‘rows of lighted lamps’, which is why the windowsills and homes are lined with lights throughout the world.  Although the festival lasts for 5 days, the day of Diwali is the 11th November this year.

diyas

Why do people celebrate?

The festival is celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs and Jains, all for a variety of reasons.

One of the most popular Hindu legends is that Diwali is celebrated because of Rama’s return to be coroneted, after 14 years exile and the defeat of demon king Ravanna.  His new subjects lit a path for his return which is why the lights are central to the festival.

Another reason is that the festival honours the goddess of wealth, Lakshmi, and the lights are to guide her into the home.  However, in Bengal it is to celebrate the goddess Kali, who liberates the soul from the cycle of light and death.  In Nepal it is in honour of Lord Krishna’s victory over the demon king Narakaasara.

Sikhs celebrate Diwali as the anniversary of the release of the sixth guru, Guru Hargobind from prison, along with 52 Hindu rajas (kings), and call the festival Diwali Bandi Chhar Divas.  Jains celebrate the enlightenment of Bhagwan Mahavir, last tirthankara (teacher) of Jainism.

Whatever the religion, the overarching theme of the festival season is the celebration of good over evil, knowledge over ignorance, and light over darkness.

sikh

An Indian Sikh lighting lamps outside the Golden Temple in Amritsar

 

How do people celebrate?

People can celebrate in a variety of ways.  Windowsills and offices often get filled with small, earthenware oil lamps called diyas, which are often homemade.  Firework shows and bonfires are often set up, and people make colourful rangoli artworks with family and friends.  Sharing sweets and gifts, especially with those in need is encouraged, and homes are cleaned and new clothes worn as the festival coincides with the Hindu New Year.  This is also a time to fast for some, and for prayer for health and happiness for loved ones.

Some of these traditions can be traced back to 50-100AD, to an autumnal festival for the dead and, although the meaning has changed slightly, the traditions still remain.

diwali-rangoli-b1

When and Where do people celebrate?

As Diwali is based around the same time as Hindu New Year and is dependent on the Hindu lunar calendar, the exact date of the celebrations changes each year.  However, it is always around Mid-October to Mid-November.

People celebrate around the globe, especially in areas with a large Hindu population.  India is the main country which celebrates, with a public holiday on the day, as well as other South-Asian countries like Nepal and Sri Lanka.  In Nepal, the event is actually called Tihar and has many different regional variations.

There are also large celebrations around the UK in places like Trafalgar Square and Leicester.  In Leicester, 35000 people gather on Belgrave Road to watch the fireworks and to honour the day.

dwiali fireworks

We here at LampShopOnline want to wish everyone celebrating a very happy and safe Diwali!

(1)_Rangoli_with_Light_&_Shadow_Diwali_November_2013

 

 

Abigail Houseman

Diwali: The Festival of Lights - All Things Flourescent, CFL & LED - The Lampshoponline BlogLampshoponline