Diwali or Deepavali, known as “the festival of lights”, falls on 30 October this year. The spiritual significance of the festival is the commemoration of the triumph of light over darkness. This also implies rejoicing over the victory of good over evil, knowledge over ignorance, and hope over despair. Diwali is celebrated with much grandeur not only in India, but also in Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Nepal, Myanmar, Mauritius, Britain, Australia and Fiji.
The highlight of the festival is the lighting up of homes beautifully. The ritual begins two to three days prior to the festival. A number of lights will be lined up on rooftops, balconies, outside of doors and windows to match the literal meaning of Diwali, i.e. “row of lights/lamps”. Exchanging gifts between friends and families, feasting on good food, lighting of earthen diyas/candles, drawing rangoli (patterns crafted on floor using colourful powders), bursting of crackers, prayers and poojas form part of the celebration.
Five Days Celebration
The preparations and rituals of the festival are spread across five days. The main festival night of Diwali coincides with the darkest, new moon night of the Hindu Lunisolar month Kartika. The festivities start with Dhanteras or Dhanwantari Triodasi. Dhanteras is celebrated mostly in the northern and western part of India. On this day people engage themselves with cleaning and decorating their premises. It is followed by Naraka Chaturdasi or the eve of Diwali. The third day of Diwali is the actual Diwali. Special pujas to Lord Vishnu and Goddess Lakshmi will be offered on this day. The fourth day is Diwali Padva, dedicated to wife–husband relationship. Goverdhan Pooja is performed on this day. The fifth day is celebrated as Bhai Dooj. The day is dedicated to celebrate sister–brother bond.
Pujas – Integral Part of Diwali
Diwali pays tribute to Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and Lord Vishnu’s wife. The day is dedicated to pujas and prayers to the goddess. Devotees spend time in prayer to attain prosperity and well-being for their families and businesses. It is believed that the goddess visits on Diwali day to bestow gifts and blessings on them.
Devotees also venerate Lord Ganesha during the festival to beseech his blessings to get rid of all obstacles. Saraswati, the Goddess of music, literature and learning, and Kubera, the Lord of treasury are also venerated. In the eastern states of Odisha and West Bengal, Diwali is the season of Kali puja. Some other cultures celebrate Krishna during the Diwali season.
Gifting Sweets – An Inevitable Diwali Custom
Sweets serve as delicious symbols of happy moments. Therefore, there is no wonder sweets are an essential element of Diwali celebration. Besides fireworks, decorations, and lights, the festival of Diwali is embedded with the beautiful custom of gifting ‘mithai’ or ethnic sweets. Sweets make the occasion happier and more auspicious. Sweets are prepared and offered to Goddess Lakshmi, and she returns bountiful of blessings to her devotees. The true spirit of Diwali lies in preparing delectable sweets and gifting them to your dear and near ones.
Cashew Barfi, Gulab Jamun, Jalebi, Gajar Ka Halwa, Rasgulla, Kajukatli, Ras Mlai, Kulfi, Sohan papdi, Kalakhand, Mysore Pak etc. are to name a few from the innumerable list of Diwali sweets .
Let the festival of lights not only illuminate our surroundings, but our minds also.