Diwali, a 5 day festival, is celebrated to mark the triumph of good over evil.
It is observed in many countries such as India, Malaysia and Nepal, or where there are larger Indian communities such as Canada, Britain and New Zealand. Diwali has same significance for Hindus as Christmas does for Christians.
Other than Hindus; Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains also celebrate Diwali, although for each faith it marks different historical events and stories with the same symbolic victory of ‘light over darkness’; ‘knowledge over ignorance’ and ‘good over evil’. Whatever your faith, you can join in the festivity that is ‘The Festival of Light’ or ‘Deepavali’.
Diwali is celebrated to honour Rama-chandra, the 7th avatar (incarnation of god Vishnu). It is believed that on this day Rama-chandra returned home after 14 years of exile during which he won a battle against the demons and their demon king, Ravana.
How I celebrate Diwali
I start the preparations for Diwali by doing a spring clean of sorts. I decorate my home with wall hangings, make Rangoli and draw small footprints over my home, to welcome the Goddess of wealth, Lakshmi. I will do this before the 1st day of Diwali or Dhanteras.
In the evening, I will light small oil lamps called Diyas and place them around the home. The light symbolises inner peace to fight off traces of darkness and ignorance.
1st day Dhanteras (Day of Fortune) – I will simply go shopping!! It is customary to buy utensils and ornaments on the first day of Diwali.
2nd and 3rd day (Day of Knowledge and Light) – We wear new clothes and jewels. Bake sweets, snacks and savouries. These are traditional offerings for Diwali and exchanged as gifts.
Diwali day (3rd day), I, along with my daughter, perform rituals (Pooja) to seek divine blessings from the Goddess of Wealth, Lakshmi and the God of prosperity, Ganesh.
After Pooja, we meet up with the extended family for our family meal and then go out to set off fireworks. Back home in India, normally neighbours will get together and join in with the fireworks.
‘The loudest the better’ is the motive on the day, which is common part of Diwali. While kids are doing fireworks, under supervision of course, Elders will retire to play card games for money.
4th Day Annakut (New Year) – New financial year starts for the Indian business community and Hindus celebrate their New Year.
5th Day Bhai Duj (Siblings love) – Brothers and Sisters celebrate the day by reaffirming sibling love. My daughter do ‘Tikka’ on the forehead of cousin brothers to show her love and appreciation. Her brothers, in return, give her gifts and pledge their love and to always be there for her, no matter what.
Spiritual significance of Diwali
Beyond lights, gambling and fun, Diwali is also a time to reflect on life and make changes like give and forgiving – forget and forgive the wrongs done by others, unite and unify – Diwali is a unifying event and can soften even the hardest of hearts.
It is a time for people to gather in joy and embrace one another illuminate your inner self – It is believed that the light of lights is the one that shines steadily in the chamber of the heart and by fixing the mind on this supermen light illuminates the soul.