Diwali, also known as Deepawali in several parts of India, is celebrated as the main Hindu festival or 'Festival of lights' and it is one of the biggest festivals of Hindus. It is celebrated with great spirit and happiness in India. Diwali celebration includes millions of lights shining on housetops, outside doors and windows, around temples and other buildings in the communities and countries where it is observed. The festival spiritually signifies the victory of light over darkness, good over evil, knowledge over ignorance, and hope over despair.
Diwali means ‘series of lights’, and is derived from ‘light, lamp’ and ‘series, line, row’. The other term Deepawali literally means a garland of diyas (earthern lamps).
The festival is celebrated for five continuous days. Diwali is an ancient Hindu festival in Nepal (as Tihar) and India (as Deepawali). The festival is celebrated in autumn (northern hemisphere) or spring (southern hemisphere) every year. It is an official holiday in Fiji, Guyana, India, Pakistan, Malaysia, Mauritius, Myanmar, Nepal, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago.
Over a five-day period the festival preparations and rituals typically extend. But the main festival night of Diwali coincides with the darkest, new moon night of the Hindu Lunisolar month Kartika in Bikram Sambat calendar. Diwali night falls between mid-October and mid-November in the Gregorian calendar.
People clean, renovate, and decorate their homes and offices before Diwali night. On Diwali night, Hindus dress up in new clothes or their best outfit, light up diyas (lamps and candles) inside and outside their home, participate in family puja (prayers) and worship Lakshmi – the goddess of fertility and prosperity. After puja, fireworks follow, then a family feast including mithai (sweets), and an exchange of gifts between family members and close friends. Deepawali also marks a major shopping period in nations where it is celebrated.
Fairs are also held throughout India to add to add more festivity to the occasion. Melas are found in many towns and villages. Among the many activities that take place at a fair are performances by jugglers, acrobats, snake charmers and fortune tellers. Food stalls are set up, selling sweet and spicy foods. There are a variety of rides at the fair, which include Ferris wheels and rides on animals such as elephants and camels. Activities for children, such as puppet shows, occur throughout the day.
Based on the region of India, the name of festive days as well as the rituals of Diwali varies significantly among Hindu. In many parts of India, the festivities start with Dhanteras (in Northern and Western part of India), followed by Naraka Chaturdasi on second day, Deepavali on the third day, Diwali Padva dedicated to wife–husband relationship on the fourth day, and festivities end with Bhai Dooj dedicated to sister–brother bond on the fifth day. Dhanteras usually falls on the eighteenth day after Dussehra.
On the same night that Hindus celebrate Diwali, Jains celebrate a festival of lights to mark the attainment of moksha by Mahavira, Sikhs celebrate Bandi Chhor Divas to mark the release of Guru Hargobind from a Mughal Empire prison, and Newar Buddhists, unlike the majority of Buddhists, celebrate Diwali by worshipping Lakshmi.
During ancient times in India, Diwali was celebrated as a festival after the summer harvest in the Hindu calendar month of Kartika. The festival is mentioned in Sanskrit texts such as the Padma Purana, the Skanda Purana both completed in second half of 1st millennium AD but believed to have been expanded from a core text from an earlier era. The diyas (lamps) are mentioned in Skanda Purana to symbolically represent parts of sun, the cosmic giver of light and energy to all life, who seasonally transitions in the Hindu calendar month of Kartik.
With significant preparations in India and Nepal, Diwali is one of the happiest holidays. It is one of the biggest shopping seasons in India and Nepal. People buy new clothes for themselves and their families, as well as gifts, appliances, kitchen utensils, even expensive items such as cars and gold jewellery. People also buy gifts for family members and friends which typically include sweets, dry fruits, and seasonal specialties depending on regional harvest and customs. It is also the period when children hear ancient stories, legends about battles between good and evil or light and darkness from their parents and elders. Girls and women go shopping and create rangoli and other creative patterns on floors, near doors and walkways. Youth and adults alike help with lighting and preparing for patakhe (fireworks).
In regional practices and rituals there is a significant variation. Depending on the region, prayers are offered before one or more deities, with most common being Lakshmi – the goddess of wealth and prosperity. On Diwali night, fireworks light up the neighbourhood skies. Later, family members and invited friends celebrate the night over food and sweets. It is also a festival of sounds and sights with fireworks and rangoli designs. The festival is a major celebration of flavors with feasts and numerous mithai (sweets, desserts), as well as a festival of emotions where Diwali ritually brings family and friends together every year.
Diwali also mark as a festival of peace & kindness. Every year on Diwali, at the international border, Indian forces approach Pakistani forces and offer traditional Indian sweets on the occasion of Diwali. The Pakistani soldiers anticipating the gesture return the goodwill with an assortment of Pakistani sweets.