In India, Diwali, also known as Divali or Deepavali, is celebrated between October and November. It is a festival dedicated to light, understood both in a physical and spiritual sense. Diwali festival falls on the 15th day of the Hindu month of Kartika. This year is today November 14th. Last year, however, it was October 27th. Not in all regions of India, however, this holiday falls on the same day, because the lunar calendars are sometimes different from each other and, for example, in Tamil Nadu Diwali is celebrated in the month of Tamil Aipasi.
Over the years, Diwali has become a full-fledged national Indian holiday. Today it is therefore celebrated not only by Hindus, but also by Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs. The deity at the center of this Indian festival is the goddess Lakshmi, but each day of Diwali has a special meaning. Continue to read and find out more about the holiday Diwali.
What is diwali
Buddhists, Hindus, Jains and Sikhs observe different customs related to Diwali. Diwali festival celebrates the victory of justice and the triumph of light over spiritual darkness. Tradition makes the festival coincide with the return of Rama to the kingdom of Ayodhya after 14 years of exile. Diwali is also related to the worship of the goddess Lakshmi as the consort of Vishnu and as a symbol of wealth and prosperity. The celebrations on the occasion of Diwali are of various kinds. Some people decorate their homes and workplaces with small electric lights or small oil lamps. There are also bowls of water with floating candles and floral decorations. The celebrations can last up to five days. In this period particular attention is paid to the care of the house, new clothes are worn and gifts are exchanged as a family. For the occasion, banks, post offices and government offices in India remain closed. Shops and companies opt for closing or reducing opening hours. Travelers should keep in mind that means of transport may follow holiday schedules on the occasion of Diwali.
Buddhists remember the conversion of Emperor Ashoka , while many Jains celebrate the festival of light in honor of Mahavira, the one who established the central spiritual ideas of Jainism. The electric lights and small oil lamps made of clay that are lit during this festival symbolize light in its physical and spiritual aspects.
Light is celebrated with light. That is why, during Diwali, India lights up: candles, fireworks, oil lamps, lanterns, floral decorations, small electric lights. Light is brought everywhere, but especially in homes and sacred places. In Varanasi, one of the holiest places in India and the world, the Diwali festival is celebrated by letting go of candles on the water of the sacred river, the Ganges. In fact, it is believed that during Diwali God comes down to Earth to bathe in these waters.
In Goa, on the other hand, in the south of India, Diwali is celebrated with fireworks. These serve to ward off the demon Narakasura, who was cast out of the area thousands of years ago by Krishna. The local population depicts the expulsion of Narakasura from Goa carrying the effigies of the devil away from the inhabited center and celebrating the liberation with spectacular fireworks.
To celebrate Diwali, you don’t need to be a Hindu or be in India. It is an Indian holiday, sure, but it is the celebration of something universal : the desire to have enough light in one’s life to be able to chase away the darkness.
Diwali is a five-day holiday, also known as the “festival of lights”. For many South Asian citizens it coincides with harvest time and is comparable to an autumn New Year, which brings good luck and well-being. The date for Diwali changes every year. In 2021, the holidays have already started on November 2. The word Diwali comes from Sanskrit. Deepvali means “a line of lights on”. For this reason it is customary to find candles and colored lamps lit for the occasion in Indian homes, as well as in shops and government establishments. An alternative to colored tealights are oil lamps, which are called Diyas.
But where does this holiday come from? Being celebrated by different religions in the same time frame, the origins of Diwali are the most diverse. Hindus, for example, celebrate the return of the gods Rama and Sita al Ayodhaya after their 14-year exile. But Diwali is also a time to remember the day the mother goddess Druga destroyed the demon called Mahisha. It is different for the Sikhs, who remember the 5 days between October and November as the anniversary of the release from prison of the sixth guru Hargobind Singhin 1916. This is why Diwali is an opportunity for this religious group to observe charity and do charity. Finally, the Janists see in Diwali the moment when Lord Mahavira has reached the state of nirvana, eternal bliss.
In India it is customary to eat typical sweets to accompany the lighting of the lamps, which is symbolically the culmination of the holidays. The lights are then placed both inside the houses and on the external cornices. It is also common to wear colorful clothes, as Diwali is a party that wants to represent joy and happiness. Another tradition linked to Diwali is related to rice. During the peak day of Diwali, which this year falls on November 4th, the Hindu faithful draw floral shapes with powders, spices and rice on the streets of the cities. It is an art practice called rangoli and is a mouthpiece of good luck, according to the Hindu American Foundation.
Among the typical dishes consumed on the occasion of Diwali, there are several desserts, including the Motichur Laddu, a sugary meatball that melts in the mouth. Also famous is Jalebiis, a spiral-shaped cake made with flour and sugar syrup.
5 days of celebration
- The first day is celebrated with a Puja dedicated to Lakshmi, then prosperity is celebrated and people clean and tidy up their homes, and eventually buy new utensils (often in gold). Some legends also want that, on this very day, the gift of Ayurveda was given to man, through an incarnation of Vishnu.
- On the second day, the victory of the goddess Kali and Krishna over the demon Narakasura is celebrated. The houses are decorated with oil lamps, lights, bowls filled with water in which candles and flowers are floated. The name of the festival, in fact, derives from the row (Avali) of clay lamps (Deepa) that are placed in front of the houses to protect themselves from spiritual darkness and evil. The houses are also decorated with rangoli, particular geometric designs (which can recall mandalas) made with colored powders or sand.
- The third day coincides with the new moon, the new moon, or the darkest night and is the most important day, in which Lakshmi is celebrated with prayers, food offerings and beautiful fireworks. The colors and lights of the fireworks light up the dark night and are a symbol of the celebration of life.
- On the fourth day, according to tradition, Krishna defeats Indra, the lord of bad weather, and the first day of the new year is celebrated.
- The fifth and last day of the celebrations is dedicated to the celebration of the relationship between brothers and sisters.
How to celebrate Diwali in our home
- Choosing to eat plant-based foods for a few days , or, if we are already accustomed, to fast or semi-fast (without improvising).
- Cleaning our home, donating what we no longer need and maybe painting the walls a new color, to give new energy to the rooms. Let’s not forget to carefully clean the room or space where we practice yoga too! We clean the mat with a special spray and we also wipe the blocks with a damp cloth. If we have an altar we can dedicate it to Lakshmi, we can add a representation of the goddess, arrange fresh flowers, some fruit (perfect pomegranates, a symbol of prosperity and abundance) and a gold or gilded object.
- Let’s add a moment of mantra recitation to our Asana practice.
- We decorate our home or home yoga room with candles. As we light the flame we think about the quality we want to cultivate in us and we dedicate that light to defeating the darkness of ignorance and the blocks that can hinder our path. Each light or candle can symbolize a little Sankalpa, a positive intention that we want to accompany us from now on.
- We can meditate by coloring the mandalas, alone or involving the little ones.
- Let’s celebrate ! Just a little music, some sweets and the desire to spend a carefree moment, despite the period we are experiencing.
Svastika “Good luck object”
The lights expressing the celebration of Divali are associated here with the ancient symbolism of the swastika. The word Svastika is Sanskrit, and properly of the masculine gender; the etymology sees it as composed of su, “bene”, asti, voice of the verb to be “è”, and the nominal suffix –ka literally means “auspicious object”.
Nazism’s adoption of the svastika as a symbol has, as it were, compromised its reputation in the West. But this did not happen in India: it has always been used by Hindus, Buddhists and Jains, and it still remains an evocation of good luck, and as such it not only appears in temples and on the walls of houses, but also, for example, in the logo of certain firms.
The design of the swastika appears in numerous cultures, from India to the ancient Mediterranean and even among the Native Americans, and its univocal interpretation appears impossible. An explanation is a solar symbol, where the arms of the cross turned to the right would refer to the beneficial course of the star. In India, in reality, the svastika is documented with the arms facing both to the right and to the left, although today the former tends to prevail.