One of the reasons why Diwali is such a significant festival for Hindus all over the world is the fact that it marks the beginning of the Hindu New Year according to the Hindu lunar calendar. It is believed that many of the traditions followed on Diwali are linked to the celebration of this New Year.For Instance people clean and whitewash their houses which symbolizes the discarding of all excess baggage before stepping into the New Year with a pure heart. The custom of wearing new clothes also signifies the start of something new.
The occasion sees the spring-cleaning and white-washing of houses; decorative designs or Rangolis are painted on floors and walls to greet the new year. New clothes are bought and family members and relatives gather together to offer prayers, distribute sweets and to light up their homes.
The fourth day of Diwali falls on the first day of the lunar New Year. At this time, old business accounts are settled and new books are opened. The books are worshipped in a special ceremony and participants are encouraged to remove anger, hate, and jealousy from their lives. This is done so that all deals can be settles before the New Year starts, as it is considered auspicious to enter a new lunar year without any tensions from the previous year.
Diwali New Year Customs
The New Year starts with Bestu Varush or New Year's Day. Everybody is in a jovial mood in their fine liveries. The little children look like princes and princesses in their festival attire. One can hear 'Saal Mubarak' (good wishes for the New Year) all around.
The young children follow an ancient Indian tradition as they bow down to touch the feet of their elders to gain their blessings and best wishes. People also exchange gifts, sweets, fruits and occasionally money amongst themselves.
The temples serve 56 different types of food to the deities to satiate their appetite, this is known as Annakut Darshan. The food is then blessed and distributed to the visitors as a Prasad and to the poor or needy. People offer prayers to the Hindu Gods particularly Lakshmi, Goddess of wealth and prosperity so that she may bless them with success in the coming year.
Thereafter, the festivities begin, as people light up millions and millions of Diyas which are left burning all night to guide the footsteps of the Goddess Lakshmi to their humble abode. Children burst crackers as elders enjoy the fireworks display. It is a time to enjoy and only the best and most delicious foods are serves as people lay back and welcome the New Year with immense pleasure and introspection.