Diwali, Deepavali or Divali is a significant festival of the Hindus. �Deep� means light and Diwali is the �Festival of Lights� where lamps are lit to celebrate the victory of good over evil inciting a new hope for mankind.
The formal name of the festival is Deepavali, in North India it is colloquially called �Diwali�. The celebration of the Diwali festival spreads over five consecutive days at the end of the Hindu month Ashwayuja that corresponds to the months of October or November in the Gregorian calendar. The Diwali festival arrives exactly 20 days after Dussehra.
The Origin Of the Diwali festival
There are several legends and beliefs regarding the origin of Deepavali. The most popular one says that Diwali marks the time when Lord Rama achieved victory over Ravana. Some people believe Diwali marks the day when Lord Krishna defeated Narakasura. Another story suggests Diwali as the day when Bali returned to rule the nether world obeying the order of Vishnu. The Diwali festival is probably rooted in ancient harvest celebrations.
However, the aesthetic aspect of the Diwali festival has traveled beyond the religious limitations and is enjoyed by all Indians regardless of their religious affinities.
The Five-Day Diwali Celebration
In North India, Diwali is celebrated for 5 days. Divali is a new moon day, which marks the last day of a 15 day half lunar month. The second half lunar month starts off from Diwali.
�Dhan Teras� or �Dhan Trayodoshi� is the 13th day of the second half of the lunar month. �Dhan� is wealth and �Trayodoshi� means �13th day�. This holyday is considered auspicious for shopping.
This is the 14th day of the second half of the lunar month. Naraka means �of a new era of Light and Knowledge� and Chaturdasi means the �14th day�.
Diwali is the third day of the 5 days. In Diwali, the moon completely disappears and the sky becomes pitch black.
Pratipada means the first. This day signifies beginning of the New Year.
This is the last day of the festival when the brothers and sisters meet and express their love and affection for each other.
Celebrating the �Festival of Lights�
�Deepavali� is a Sanskrit word, which means a range of lights that stands for victory of love over light. But if we delve deeper into Hindu philosophy we will see that Deepavali is the celebration of the Inner Light, which dispels ignorance leading to the awakening of the true self, the �Atman�. The celebration of Diwali may vary from region to region but the inner essence is the same, rejoicing the oneness of all beings with the Superior omnipotent Soul, the Brahaman.
The evening of the Diwali festival is gorgeous with a varied display of firecrackers. People wear new clothes and share sweets like �khil� (rice puffs) and patashe (sugar disks) and snacks on Diwali. The houses are cleaned and are decorated with fresh flowers. Many houses display a �rangoli�, a colorful pattern drawn in rice flour at the entrance. Puja of deities take place at homes and temples with offerings.
In North India, Goddess Lakshmi and Lord Ganesha are worshipped together for prosperity. Many North Indian business families start their new financial year from Diwali and open new account books. In Eastern part of India, Kali Puja (worshipping Goddess Kali) sometimes coincides with Divali.
Thus, goes on the joyous festivities of Diwali.