Diwali, (also referred to as Deepavali or Dipavali,) has always been one of the most popular festivals due to its interesting celebration methods and deeply spiritual meanings. Diwali is celebrated across the world. In fact, many different religions, including Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, and Jains, join celebrate the festival of lights every year.

The Timing of Diwali

According to Hindu religion, Diwali occurs on the day Lord Rama returned from a 14-year exile after defeating the ten headed villain, Ravana. It also starts on the day that Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity, was born and married to her husband, Lord Vishnu. In some eastern and northern regions of India, Diwali is also seen as a celebration for Goddess Kali.
Diwali is primarily a Hindu, religion, but it is also celebrated by a few other religions that have holy days during Diwali. For Jains, Diwali is celebrated because of their Teaching God, Mahavira achieved Nirvana on this date. Sikhs celebrate Diwali as the day when Guru Hargobind escaped with his fellow prisoners from Emperor Jahangir’s prison.

The Meaning of Diwali

There are many religious and historical tales connected to Diwali, but they all share one underlying theme. Diwali is about celebrating the victory of light over the dark. This is a rather general phrase that basically means a victory of wisdom over ignorance, joy over sorrow, hope over despair, and good over evil. Therefore, Diwali is a time of happiness and celebration where bad things are destroyed as good things triumph. This is why the lighting of diyas or oil lamps are such a celebrated touchstone in many Diwali traditions—they ward off darkness, literally, but also symbolically, too.

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The Five Days of Diwali in Hinduism

For Hindus, the primary religion celebrating the holiday, Diwali is a multiday celebration that starts at the end of Ashvin, the Hindu lunar month that typically falls during October or November.

  1. The first day of Diwali, which is called Dhanteras, starts two days before the new moon. On Dhanteras, people clean their homes and businesses, buy new clothes, draw colorful designs on their floors, and light decorative lamps to celebrate Lakshmi and prepare for Diwali.
  2. The second day, Naraka Chaturdasi further symbolizes preparations for Diwali and the killing of the demon Narakasura.
  3. Lakshmi Puja, the third day of Diwali, is the main day of the festival. Hindus make many offerings to Lakshmi, and then people light firecrackers and d1a to celebrate and create light.
  4. The fourth day, Padwa, is specifically for spouses to celebrate their love with gifts and special events.
  5. The fifth day is Bhai Dhooj, it is a day for siblings to visit with each other and celebrate their familial bond.

Diwali Celebration Methods Across Religions

The five days of Diwali are primarily celebrated by Hindus, but certain days have specific meanings for other religions. Sikhs call the third day of Diwali Bandi Chhor Divas, and it is particularly meaningful because it was the first time a Sikh Guru encouraged their community to fight back for religious freedom from the oppressive Emperor Jahangir. They mostly follow Hindu customs of lighting firecrackers and decorating homes, but Sikh celebrations do not include special prayers to Lakshmi, Vishnu, or any other Hindu gods. Though Jains also celebrate the days of Diwali, their religion tries to avoid harming any living thing or wasting money, so they do not normally set off firecrackers or buy a lot of fancy decorations. Instead, they visit with their family, sing Jain hymns together, and light candles to symbolize the banishment of ignorance.