You could call it India’s autumn festival. Diwali, the five-day festival of lights, celebrated by millions of Hindus, Sikhs and Jains across the world, and which coincides with the Hindu New Year, is all about celebrating new beginnings and the triumph of good over evil and light over darkness.
The actual day of Diwali is traditionally celebrated on the festival’s third day, which this year falls on Wednesday, 7 November. While each faith has its own reason to celebrate the festival, one of the most popular stories told is the legend of Lord Rama and his wife Sita returning to their kingdom in northern India from exile after defeating the demon king Ravanna in the 15th century BC.
Diwali dates back to ancient times in India and is supposedly mentioned in Sanskrit texts as early as the 1st millennium BC and various texts later, including those of historians and travelers from Persia and beyond.
It is one of the biggest and most celebrated holidays in India, and with the growing Indian diaspora has become a popular festival abroad as well.
Diwali sees millions attend firework displays, prayers and celebratory events across the world. Houses are decorated with candles and colourful lights and huge firework displays are held while families feast and share gifts.
Those celebrating the festival also light traditional earthen diyas (candles) and decorate their houses with colourful rangoli artworks–patterns created on the floor using coloured rice or powder. During Diwali, families and friends share sweets and gifts and there is also a strong belief in giving food and goods to those in need. It is also traditional for homes to be cleaned and new clothes to be worn at the time of the festival. From sweets like laddoos and kaju katlis to savouries like samosas, the Diwali feast is large.
So say a prayer, watch the fireworks and sit back and celebrate the goodness of the season.