Diwali is a Hindu festival occurring between mid-October and mid-November. This year the celebration takes place from October 29 until November 1. Although there are variations in how the festival is celebrated, its purpose commemorates the victory of good over evil and light over darkness. It’s a time of family and friends dedicated to Goddess Lakshmi, the consort of Lord Vishnu.
Lakshmi is the goddess wealth and prosperity. Diwali is the time to invite her to your home to encourage these blessings in the year ahead. It’s important that the house is spotless, because Lakshmi visits the cleanest house first. Cleaning and decorating correspond with the first day of the festival, called Dhanteras. This is also the day for designing and creating Rangoli, creative floor designs done in sand or colored powder. If you think you might want to make one this year, here’s an example.
I’m struck by the color, beauty, and grace the design. Sadly, I’ve never progressed beyond stick drawings in chalk on the sidewalk.
The second day, called Choti Diwali, represents the festival day in miniature.
Lakshmi Puja, on the third day, is the most important day of Diwali. Account books are balanced. The day is set for the darkest night so that diyas can be set out to invite the goddess to come inside the house. Rangoli also serve as an invitation to family and friends. Doors and windows, balconies and other inviting surfaces are lit to dispel the darkness.
After the prayer rituals, people go outside to set off fireworks. Once those have pierced the darkness, people go inside for a feast followed by sweets. Favorite items are sweetmeats, generally sweet, fried confections. One of these called Lapsi is made from wheat, sugar, almonds, raisons, ghee (clarified butter), and cardamon powder. It looks fairly easy.
It is said that Diwali is the day when Goddess Parvati played dice with her husband Lord Shiva and declared that whoever gambled on Diwali would prosper in the coming year.
The fourth day, Padwa, marks the beginning of the new financial year, and is also the day celebrating the mutual love and devotion of husbands and wives.
And on the last day brothers and sisters celebrate their bond. Sisters perform puja for their brothers and prepare their favorite foods. Brothers respond by giving gifts to their sisters.
Words don’t fully describe Diwali’s fun. This video, though a bit long, shows how one family celebrates the days of Diwali.
Featured Image: Rangoli of Lights by Subharnab Majumdar. Creative Commons Attribution. Wikimedia Commons.
Sri Lakshmi by Bazar Art. 1940s. India Public Domain. Wikimedia Commons.
Worship by PJeganathan. Creative Commons Attribution. Wikimedia Commons.
Diya by Karanchheda13495. Creative Commons Attribution. Wikimedia Commons.
Food by NivediM. Creative Commons Attribution. Wikimedia Commons.
Diwali: Festival of Lights. About Religion.
Seal Sukhadwala. “What’s eaten at Diwali.” The Guardian. Oct 25, 2011.
Sandra Wagner-Wright holds the doctoral degree in history and taught women’s and global history at the University of Hawai`i. Sandra travels for her research, most recently to Salem, Massachusetts, the setting of her new Salem Stories series. She also enjoys traveling for new experiences. Recent trips include Antarctica and a river cruise on the Rhine from Amsterdam to Basel.
Sandra particularly likes writing about strong women who make a difference. She lives in Hilo, Hawai`i with her family and writes a blog relating to history, travel, and the idiosyncrasies of life.