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Diwali

When is Diwali?

Diwali usually falls between mid-October and mid-November each year and takes place over five days, with the main celebration on the third day. The exact date is determined by the new moon and the lunar Hindu calendar.

Diwali

What is Diwali?

Diwali is a celebration of the triumph of light over darkness and good over evil. Also called the Festival of Lights, it is the biggest festival of the year in India, known for amazing firework displays and the glittering lights which decorate homes and temples. Diwali is a time for spirituality and prayer and a time when friends and families share a meal and exchange gifts.

Diwali is celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs and Jains in India and in countries where the Hindu religion is prominent such as Nepal, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Singapore and Bali, as well as in places with a large Indian population.

Each of the five days of Diwali has a different significance and its own traditions. The first day is for cleaning the house and shopping, traditionally for gold or metals or new clothes. On the second day, people festoon their homes with lamps and fairy lights and decorate doorways and courtyards with rangoli: intricate designs made from coloured rice, sand and powder.

The third day is the most important: small clay lamps and candles are lit in preparation for the Lakshmi Puja, when people worship at home or in temples, giving offerings to the goddess Lakshmi and praying for prosperity and well-being. Families gather to eat together and to exchange gifts and traditional Diwali sweets. People let off fireworks and firecrackers in the streets or join the throng at a big firework display.

The fourth and fifth days are for celebrating the love between husbands and wives and the bond between sisters and brothers.

Diwali candle

Because the festival of Diwali encompasses several different religions, its significance varies from place to place. For Hindus in northern India the festival celebrates the victory of Lord Rama over the demon Ravana and his return to his kingdom after a period of exile when, to ease his homecoming, his subjects lit the way with masses of earthenware oil lamps called diyas. For Sikhs, Diwali marks the release from prison of the sixth guru, Guru Hargobind, while for Jains it marks the day on which Mahavira, who taught Jainism's central beliefs, achieved Nirvana. In West Bengal it is a time to worship the goddess Kali, destroyer of evil forces. In Nepal, it is a celebration of the victory of Lord Krishna over the wicked king Narakasura.

At Diwali many people seek blessings from goddess Lakshmi, while others pray to Ganesh, the elephant-headed god of good fortune and new beginnings, or to Krishna, Vishna, Rama or many other gods.

Why does Diwali fall between mid-October and mid-November?

The date of Diwali changes each year because it is set by the lunar calendar. The third day of the festival is on the night of the new moon during the Hindu month of Kartika. This day is known as Kartik Amavasya or New Moon Day and is the darkest night of the month.

When was Diwali first celebrated?

Diwali has been celebrated for over 2,500 years. It is widely believed that it began as a summer harvest festival, with lamps representing the sun and the light and energy it provides. Over time the festival became associated with several different religions, each with its own legends, making it impossible to say exactly when it first began.

Interesting facts about Diwali

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