Diwali celebration in India-2014: A high lighted custom

Diwali (Dīvali, Dīpāwali, Deepavali, Dipabali) is a festival of lights and is a gazetted holiday in India. Followers of Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism and Sikhism observe various customs related to Diwali.

Beautiful sky lanterns made of colorful cloth for sale for the Diwali festival in India. ©iStockphoto.com/thefinalmiracle

What do people do?

Diwali celebrations may last for up to five days. Many people decorate their home and workplaces with tiny electric lights or small clay oil lamps. Bowls of water with candles and flowers floating on the surface are also popular decorations.

Many people make a special effort to clean their homes and yards before Diwali. They may also wash themselves with water and fragrant oils, wear new clothes and give gifts of sweets to family members, close friends and business associates. Fireworks are set off in the evening in some areas. Melas (fairs) are held in many towns and villages.

People in different regions in India may celebrate Diwali on various dates. This is because traditional lunar calendars can be interpreted in different ways. For example, Deepavali in Tamil Nadu is celebrated in the Tamil month of Aipasi.

2014 Diwali Calendar, Deepavali Calendar

Diwali which is also known as Deepawali is the most famous festival of the year. Diwali is the five days festivity period which begins on Dhanteras and ends on Bhaiya Dooj. However, in Maharashtra Diwali festivity begins one day earlier on Govatsa Dwadashi. 

During five days festivity various rituals are followed and with Goddess Lakshmi several other Gods and Goddesses are worshipped. However Goddess Lakshmi is the most significant deity during Diwali Puja. The new moon day, which is known as Amavasya, is the most significant day of five days Diwali festivities and known as Lakshmi Puja, Lakshmi-Ganesh Puja and Diwali Puja.

Diwali Puja is done not only in families but also in offices. Diwali Puja is the significant day for the most traditional Hindu businessmen. On this day, ink bottle, pens and new account books are worshipped. Ink bottle and pen, which are called Davat (दावात) and Lekhani (लेखनी) respectively, are sanctified by worshipping Goddess Maha Kali on them. New account books, which are called Bahi-Khate (बही-खाते), are sanctified by worshipping Goddess Saraswati on them. 

The most auspicious time to do Diwali Puja is after sunset. The time period after sunset is known as Pradosh. The day of Diwali Puja is decided when Amavasya Tithi prevails during Pradosh. Hence no other Diwali Puja Muhurat is as good as Puja Muhurat during Pradosh even if it is available for one Ghati (approximately 24 minutes). 
Public life

Government offices, post offices and banks are closed in India on Diwali. Stores and other businesses and organizations may be closed or have reduced opening hours. Transport is usually unaffected as many locals travel for religious celebrations. However those wishing to use public transport on the day should check with the local transport authorities on public transit schedules.

Deepawali or Diwali is a festival of lights symbolizing the victory of righteousness and the lifting of spiritual darkness. The word “Deepawali” refers to rows of diyas, or clay lamps. This is one of the most popular festivals in the Hindu calendar. It is celebrated on the 15th day of Kartika, according to the Hindu calendar. This festival commemorates Lord Rama's return to his kingdom Ayodhya after completing his 14-year exile. The myths around Rama and Ravana are told during another holiday, known as Dussehra or Vijaya Dashami.

The Goddess Lakshmi was Vishnu’s consort and she symbolizes wealth and prosperity. She is also worshipped on Diwali. This festival is celebrated in West Bengal as "Kali Puja", and Kali, Shiva's consort, is worshipped during Diwali. The Diwali festival in southern India often commemorates the conquering of the Asura Naraka, a king of Assam who imprisoned many people. It is believed that Krishna freed the prisoners.

Many Buddhists in India mark anniversary of the Emperor Ashoka’s conversion to Buddhism around the time of Diwali. Many scholars believe that Ashoka lived between 270BCE and 232 BCE. Many people who observe Jainism mark the anniversary of Mahavira's (or Lord Mahavir) attainment of nirvana on October 15, 527 BCE. Mahavira established the central spiritual ideas of Jainism. Many Jains celebrate the Festival of Lights in his honor.

Bandi Chhorh Divas, which is the Sikh celebration of the sixth Nanak's (Guru Har Gobind) return from detention in the Gwalior Fort, coincides with Diwali. This coincidence has resulted in the similarity of celebrating the day among many Sikhs and Hindus.

Electric lights, small oil lamps made of clay and flames are important Diwali symbols. They represent both physical and spiritual aspects of light.

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