India’s biggest holiday of the year
Diwali and its festival of lights has become a national festival that is enjoyed by most Indians regardless of faith: Hindus, Jains, Buddhists, and Sikhs. Diwali includes decorative displays of flowers, lamps, and even fireworks. Diwali originated as a harvest festival. Many harvest festivals occur in autumn, as the weather begins to turn cold. The Diwali festival also marks the traditional New Year’s Eve.
Why would people celebrate the end of the harvest season?
People celebrate the end of a harvest for two major reasons, both tied to agriculture. In ancient agricultural societies, the end of the season traditionally meant less need for the backbreaking work of harvesting crops. If the harvest was successful, the end of the season also meant the community had abundant food for the winter. Less work, more food—those are both good reasons to celebrate!
Why would they do so with a “festival of lights”?
The festival gets its name from the row (avali) of clay lamps (or deepa) that Indians light outside their homes to symbolize the inner light that protects us from spiritual darkness. A festival of lights is perfectly timed as autumn turns to winter. Days start getting shorter and nights start getting longer as the winter solstice approaches.
DIWALI IS CELEBRATED OVER FIVE DAYS.
People clean their homes and shop for gold or kitchen utensils to help bring good fortune.
People decorate their homes with clay lamps and create design patterns called rangoli on the floor using colored powders or sand.
On the main day of the festival, families gather together for Lakshmi puja, a prayer to Goddess Lakshmi, followed by mouth-watering feasts and firework festivities.
This is the first day of the new year, when friends and relatives visit with gifts and best wishes for the season.
Brothers visit their married sisters, who welcome them with love and a lavish meal.