Diwali is an ancient Hindu festival celebrated in autumn every year. Diwali is the biggest and the brightest festival in India. The festival spiritually signifies the victory of the light over darkness. The festival preparations and rituals typically extend over a five day period, but the main festival night of Diwali coincides with the darkest, new moon night of the Hindu Lunisolar month Kartika. In the Gregorian calendar, Diwali falls between mid-October and mid-November.
Historically, the origin of Diwali can be traced back to ancient India, when it was probably an important harvest festival. However, there are various legends pointing to the origin of Diwali or ‘Deepawali’. Some believe it to be the celebration of the marriage of Lakshmi with Lord Vishnu. Whereas in Bengal the festival is dedicated to the worship Mother Kali, the dark goddess of strength. Lord Ganesha, the elephant-headed God, the symbol of auspiciousness and wisdom, is also worshiped in most Hindu homes on this day. In Jainism, Deepawali has an added significance to the great event of Lord Mahaviraattaining the eternal bliss of nirvana. Diwali also commemorates the return of Lord Rama along with Sita and Lakshman from his fourteen yearlong 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 and burst crackers.
Celebration of Diwali
Celebrations start earlier in Gujarat than in the rest of India, connecting on Agyaras, the 11th day of the Krishna Paksha of Aaso. On the 12th day is VaghBaras, the festival of the cow and the calf. On the 13th day is Dhanteras, the days Diwali starts in the rest of India. The 14th is celebrated as Kali Choudas. The 15th is Lakshmi Puja, celebrated throughout India. The next day, the first day of Shukla Paksha of Kartik, is BestuVarsh. New Year’s Day, start of the Gujarati Calendar. The 2nd day of Kartik is Bhai Bij, the day Diwali ends. A further celebration takes place on the 5th day of Kartik, LabhPancham.
The Significance of Lights & Firecrackers
All the simple rituals of Diwali have a significance and a story to tell. The illumination of homes with lights and the skies with firecrackers is an expression of obeisance to the heavens for the attainment of health, wealth, knowledge, peace and prosperity. According to one belief, the sound of firecrackers are an indication of the joy of the people living on earth, making the gods aware of their plentiful state. Still another possible reason has a more scientific basis: the fumes produced by the crackers kill a lot of insects and mosquitoes, found in plenty after the rains.
From Darkness to Light
In each legend, myth and story of Deepawali lies the significance of the victory of good over evil; and it is with each Deepawali and the illuminate our homes and hearts, that this simple truth finds new reason and hope. From darkness unto light- the light that empowers us to commit ourselves to good deeds, that which brings us closer to divinity. During Diwali, lights illuminate every corner of India and the scent of incense sticks hangs in the air, mingled with the sounds of firecrackers, joy, togetherness and hope. Diwali, light a diya sit quietly, shut your eyes, withdraw the senses, concentrate on this supreme light and illuminate the soul.