Bhubaneswar: Taking place on October 19 this year in accordance to the Hindu lunar calendar is India’s biggest festival, Diwali. The word itself is derived from the Sanskrit word “deepavali,“meaning “series of lighted lamps,” hence, it is also known as the festival of lights.
Celebrated by millions of people in India and all over the world, the festival has regional differences and varies according to religion. Sikhism and Jainism for instance hold a different significance to the event as compared to Hindus.
What is it about?
For most Hindus, Diwali marks the return of deities, Rama and Sita to Ayodhya after 14 years of exile. To celebrate their return, villagers lighted oil lamps that illuminated the path in the darkness. For others, the festival is linked to Lakshmi – goddess of wealth and prosperity – and her birth on the first day of the 5 day-long event.
The significance of the festival may carry nuanced differences according to region and within the traditions of Hinduism. However, despite all the differences, a common symbolism remains – it’s an important occasion that marks the victory of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, and good over evil.
With this in mind, people ensure homes are spick and span, bright lights are everywhere and a feast is prepared to take part in the start of new beginnings.
Diwali occurs on the night centering the new moon – the darkest night. During this time, diyas (oil lamps), candles and lanterns are lighted up all around. The 5 day festival is divided as such: Dhanteras (Day 1), Naraka Chaturdasi (Day 2), Lakshmi Puja (Day 3), Padwa, Balipratipada (Day 4), Bhai Duj and Bhaiya Dooji (Day 5).
Before Diwali, people spend a lot time cleaning, renovating, and decorating homes with rangoli – colorful patterns drawn on the floor. On Diwali itself, people dress up in new clothes, put henna on their hands, light candles, and participate in family prayers followed by a grand feast of delicious food and Indian sweets.
On the day before Diwali (Dhanteras), people tend to purchase gold as it’s believed that the precious metal would bring more wealth to the family. In fact, jewelers are also expecting a good demand and increase of about 20-30% in sales during this period.