India is a land of festivals, and among all the festivals, Diwali or Deepavali, is the Festival of Lights .It is the biggest and the brightest Hindu festival. On this day the skies are alit with an array of firecrackers, the air is fragrant with the earthen diyas and the aroma of home made mithai. Diwali is celebrated every year during the 14th day of the dark half of the Hindu calendar month of Kartika; during autumn as per the Gregorian calendar.
Diwali is symbolic of the victory of good over evil. It is one of the few secular festivals, and is celebrated by all religions alike with great enthusiasm, all over India and abroad.
There are many myths and traditions related to Diwali. Some of them are:
It is believed that Goddess Laxmi was incarnated on this day of new moon, amavasya, during the churning of the ocean for Nectar, as per Hindu mythology.
According to Ramayana, the epic, on this day Lord Rama returned home to Ayodhya with Sita and Lakshmana, after 14 years exile, and after vanquishing the evil demon king Ravana, and conquering Lanka.
In the epic Mahabharata, on this day the Pandavas returned home to Hastinapur, after a 12 year exile in the forest.
Diwali gained historical importance because of the following events:
The Hindu king Vikramaditys was coroneted on this day.
Maharshi Dayananda, founder of Arya Samaj and a great reformer attained his nirvana on this day.
The foundation stone of the Golden Temple in Amritsar was laid on the day of Diwali in 1577.
Diwali is celebrated with earthen diyas lit up, lighting firecrackers, and rangolis adorning the houses. It is a time for families to get together The festival is celebrated over 5 days as follows:
On the first day, the 'Spring clean' of the entire household takes place. People also buy gold, silver or steel utensils on this day as it is supposed to bring prosperity.
Also known as Choti Diwali .On this day the house is decorated .In South India, the main Diwali is celebrated on this day.
This is the main day of the festival. The families gather and offer prayers to Goddess Laxmi. People wear new clothes, and visit each other wishing "Shubh Deepavali". There is a feast in every house, and entire cities sparkle with lights all around.
A spiritual harvest festival is celebrated on this day. It is also the beginning of the Hindu Financial New Year, and friends and family gather to exchange gifts and best wishes.
This day is dedicated to the divine and subliminal love between a brother and a sister. Sisters apply vermillion on the forehead of brothers with a promise of eternal love, affection and protection.
In Bengal, Diwali is celebrated in the form of Kali Puja. Goddess Kali is worshipped on the new moon night.
A national holiday in India, Diwali is also celebrated in Trinidad & Tobago, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Mauritius, Guyana, Surinam, Singapore, Malaysia and Fiji.