Blog: Diwali – Festival of Lights
Diwali is an important festival practiced by Hindus, Jains and Sikhs. As a community let’s celebrate together Happy Diwali!
By Ankur Subedi, ESPC Volunteer
Diwali is a festival of lights and one of the most important festivals practiced by Hindus, Jains, and Sikhs. Diwali is also called Deepawali, and Tihar in Nepal. There are also other names for Diwali such as “Yamapanchak” and “Swanti”; “Yamapanchak” translates to the five days of Lord Yama, the God of Death (Holidify, 2022). The festival “Diwali” has acquired its name from the row (avali) of clay lamps (deepa) that the festival observers light outside their homes to symbolize the inner light that protects them from spiritual darkness (National Geographic Kids, 2021).
Diwali is a five-day long festival, and it falls on a different date each autumn, timed to the Hindu lunar calendar; though it usually falls in October or November (Lowe, 2022). As the festival is celebrated over the course of five days, each day has its own significance.
The first day of Diwali is called “Dhanteras”, the worship of wealth; Goddess Lakshmi (Luck-schme), the goddess of wealth and finances, is worshipped on this day, and the entire day is dedicated to cleaning and decorating homes and purchasing small items of gold (Mocomi Kids, 2021).
The second day of Diwali is called “Narak Chaturdashi”. The significance of this day is rooted in the legend of Lord Krishna’s resounding victory over the vicious demon “Narakasur,” who had abducted the “gopis”, consorts and devotees of Lord Krishna (India Online Pages, n.d.). People keep their homes tidy on this day and use flowers and scented oils to maintain positive vibrations (India Online Pages, n.d.). Rangolis, or artistic patterns made of rice flour and water, can be found at the threshold of every house (India Online Pages, n.d.). A ‘diya’, a lighted lamp or a candle that signifies a fire deity, is placed in each room as well as in the backyard throughout the night (India Online Pages, n.d.).
The third day of Diwali is called “Lakshmi Puja”. It is the main day and the most festive day of the festival when clay lamps, candles, and fireworks are common sights (Wonderopolis, n.d.). There are several legends associated with this day. One of them is that, according to Ramayana, the Hindu Sanskrit epic, Lord Rama had finally arrived home, Ayodhya, after fourteen years of exile on this day, and was greeted with a sparkling row of lights radiating from every household (India Online Pages, n.d.). Another intriguing legend associated with this day is that of Nichiketa, a young boy (Blessings on the Net, n.d.). He was convinced that Lord Yama, the god of death, was terrifying to look at (Blessings on the Net, n.d.). Lord Yama is said to have appeared before him on this day (Blessings on the Net, n.d.). Nichiketa was taken aback by Yama’s friendly demeanor (Blessings on the Net, n.d.). Yama explained the complexities of life and death to Nichiketa on this auspicious day which made him realize that the ultimate reality of life is death, and the significance of the perpetual cycle of life (Blessings on the Net, n.d.). It is also perceived that the Goddess Lakshmi likes cleanliness and that she will visit the cleanest house first to shower her blessings, so people keep their houses spotlessly clean and sanitary on Diwali (Blessings on the Net, n.d.). Lamps are lit in the evening to welcome her and are believed to light up her path (Blessings on the Net, n.d.).
The fourth day of Diwali is Govardhan Puja, the spiritual harvest day, also called Padwa. It is the day when Lord Krishna defeated Indra, the god of rain and thunderstorm, by lifting the huge Govardhan Mountain (Mocomi Kids, 2021). People make a small hillock, usually of cow dung, symbolizing Govardhan, and worship it (Mocomi Kids, 2021). According to Hindu mythology and religious manuscripts like Bhagavata Purana, Govardhan puja is celebrated to commemorate the day when Lord Shri Krishna lifted the Govardhan mountain to provide shelter from torrential rains caused by Lord Indra to destroy the villages of Vrindavan (The Times of India, 2021).
The last day of Diwali is Bhai Dooj. It is special in that it is entirely focused on the intense love shared between a brother and a sister (India Online Pages, n.d.). The festival is tied to the fabled story of Lord Yama and his sister Yami’s brotherly love (India Online Pages, n.d.). Lord Yama decided to see his sister again after a long time apart (India Online Pages, n.d.). He was moved by the warmth and hospitality she displayed when he went to meet her (India Online Pages, n.d.). Yami gave her brother a warm welcome and showed him the utmost respect by applying a tilak to his forehead to commemorate the event (India Online Pages, n.d.). Yamraj blessed her and declared that any brother who greets his sister on this day will live a long life (India Online Pages, n.d.).
“Happy Diwali” and “Subha Deepawali” are the phrases used to wish Diwali greetings and wellness to each other. There are several Diwali events hosted by temples and gurudwaras in the communities of Edmonton for celebration. Finally, the five days of Diwali are marked by high-pitched enthusiasm and religiosity. The entire five-day celebration of Diwali strengthens interpersonal ties as people rise above differences in caste and creed to embrace the divine light of unity.
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Ankur Subedi is a Social Work student at the University of Calgary. Having completed the Social Work Diploma from Norquest College, Ankur comes with a diverse background in community involvement, and is presently working towards her Registered Social Worker designation. Ankur recently connected with ESPC to give back to the community.
Blessings On the Net. (n.d.). Third Day of diwali lakshmi puja. Retrieved from https://blessingsonthenet.com/indian-festival/article/id/24/third-day-of-diwali—lakshmi-puja
Holidify. (2022, August 10). Diwali in Nepal – celebration of the gods, mother nature and oneself. Holidify. Retrieved from https://www.holidify.com/pages/diwali-in-nepal-2081.html
India Online Pages. (n.d.). 5 days of diwali. Retrieved from https://www.indiaonlinepages.com/festivals/diwali/five-days-of-diwali.html
Lowe, L. (2022, September 28). What is diwali? everything to know about India’s Festival of Lights – Parade: Entertainment, recipes, health, life, holidays. Parade. Retrieved from https://parade.com/1191426/lindsaylowe/diwali/#:~:text=Diwali%20is%20a%20five%2Dday,24.
Mocomi Kids. (2021, February 21). 5 days of Diwali significance – festivals for kids: Mocomi. Retrieved from https://mocomi.com/5-days-of-diwali/
National Geographic Kids. (2021, November 8). Diwali-Festival of Lights. Pages. Retrieved from https://kids.nationalgeographic.com/pages/article/diwali
The Times of India. (2021, November 4). Govardhan puja 2021: Significance, timings and foods prepared on this day – times of India. Retrieved from https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/life-style/food-news/govardhan-puja-2021-significance-timings-and-foods-prepared-on-this-day/articleshow/87507205.cms#:~:text=Significance%20According%20to%20Hindu%20mythology,destroy%20the%20villages%20of%20Vrindavan.
Wonderopolis. (n.d.). What are the five days of Diwali? Retrieved from https://wonderopolis.org/wonder/What-Are-the-Five-Days-of-Diwali