Diwali is a five day festival that represents the start of the Hindu New Year. It honors the victory of good over evil, and brightness over darkness. It also marks the start of winter. Diwali is actually celebrated in honor of Lord Rama and his wife Sita returning to their kingdom of Ayodhya, following Rama and monkey god Hanuman's defeat the demon King Ravana and rescue of Sita from his evil clutches (celebrated on Dussehra).
When is Diwali Celebrated:
In October or November, depending on the cycle of the moon. In 2014, Diwali starts with Dhanteras on October 21 in India. On this day, people traditionally buy gold. Each day of the festival has a different meaning. The main festivities take place on the third day (this year, on October 23 in India), while the the fourth day is celebrated as new year's day. Merchants open fresh accounts for the new year, and offer prayers. On the fifth and last day, brothers and sisters get together and share food, to honor the bond between them.
Find out when is Diwali in future years.
Where is the Festival Celebrated:
Throughout the whole of India. However, the festival isn't widely celebrated in the state of Kerala. The question is often asked as to why this is. The answer seems to simply be that the festival has never really evolved there, as it's not part of the state's social fabric and distinctive culture. An alternative explanation that's offered is that Diwali is a festival of wealth for merchants, and the Hindus of Kerala have never freely engaged in trade as the state is a Communist ruled one. However, Diwali dates back to long before this. The main festival that's celebrated in Kerala, and which is specific to the state, is Onam.
How is the Festival Celebrated:
On the third day, lots of small clay lamps (called diyas) and candles are lit and placed in houses, and fireworks are let off everywhere, giving Diwali its name of “Festival of Lights”. People also clean and decorate their homes with Rangoli (Hindu folk art), buy new clothes, gamble, and give each other gifts and sweets during the festival.
If you're wondering about the best places to experience Diwali in India and what to do for the occasion, these 6 India Diwali Destinations and Ideas will give you some inspiration.
What Rituals are Performed During Diwali:
The rituals vary according to region. However, special blessings are given to Laxshmi, the Goddess of wealth and prosperity, and Ganesha, the remover of obstacles. The Goddess Laxshmi is believed to have been created from the churning of the ocean on the main Diwali day, and that she'll visit every home during the Diwali period, bringing with her prosperity and good fortune. It’s said that she visits the cleanest houses first, therefore people make sure their houses are spotless before lighting lamps to invite her in. Small statues of the Goddess are also worshiped in people’s homes.
What to Expect During the Festival:
The candlelight makes Diwali a very warm and atmospheric festival, and it's observed with much joy and happiness. However, be prepared for lots of loud noise from the fireworks and firecrackers going off. The air also becomes filled with smoke from the firecrackers, which can add to breathing difficulties.
Diwali Safety Information:
It's a good idea to protect your hearing with ear plugs during Diwali, especially if your ears are sensitive. Some crackers are extremely loud, and sound more like explosions. The noise is very damaging to hearing.