Diwali, the Festival of Lights

Light triumphs over darkness as Hindu communities get together to celebrate the annual 5-days long festival of Diwali

On November 3rd, millions of people around the world started celebrating Diwali.

Also known as Dipawali, it is the largest and most important Hindu festival, and is observed over 5 consecutive days.

The Etymology of Diwali

The name of the festival comes from the row (āvali) of clay lamps (dīpa) that Indians place outside their homes to represent the inner light that shields them from spiritual darkness. In fact, during Diwali, thousands of candles are lit to represent the triumph of light over darkness, good over evil, knowledge over ignorance, peace over war, and hope over despair. It's no coincidence that it is also known as the "light festival."

The Origins of the Festival

Hindus interpret Diwali according to their own traditions and faiths, however, a similar thread runs across all interpretations: the triumph of good over evil.

In Northern India, rows of clay lamps are burnt to commemorate King Rama's return to Ayodhya after defeating the evil spirit Ravana.

In South India, Diwali commemorates the day Krishna destroyed the demon Narakasura, while in Western India it commemorates the day when Vishnu defeated the demon King Bali. 

Over the years, Diwali has become a national celebration for Hindus, Jains, Buddhists, and Sikhs alike.

Buddhists remember the conversion of Emperor Ashoka, while many Jains celebrate the festival of light in honour of Mahavira, who established the central spiritual ideas of Jainism.

Five Days of Celebrations

Cleaning the house, purchasing gold, new clothes or utensils are some of the propitious preparations during Diwali’s first day, together with prayers.

Clay lamps and colourful powders or sand are used on the second day to make design motifs (rangolis) on the floor of each house.

On the third day, families assemble for Lakshmi puja, a devotion to the Goddess Lakshmi followed by food and fireworks festivals.

The fourth day is the first day of the new year, and therefore considered the most important day of the festival.

Friends and neighbours exchange presents and best wishes as they celebrate the spirit of gift-giving.

The last day of Diwali, the brothers visit their married sisters who welcome them with love and traditional meals.

Community

Diwali Festivals held by local government groups and community groups across Australia every year, showcase the best of Indian food, entertainment and cultural practices including henna painting. These events often promoted as the Festival of Lights are a great way to get involved in the celebrations.