It’s Diwali! Have you thought about what you might make during this Auspicious time?
If you rolled a bit of Christmas, New Year’s Eve and the Fourth of July all into one, then catered the affair with mountains of sweets and savory snacks, you would have a taste of what it means to celebrate Diwali, India’s best-known festival. It is a day of Hindu solidarity, when all Hindus gather in love and trust. It is observed by lighting rows of oil lamps and exchanging greeting cards, clothing and other gifts. Family bonds are strengthened and forgiveness sought. For many, Diwali marks the beginning of the new year. Joyous festivities and parties abound.
Deepavali (Diwali) – The Festival of Lamps
Deepavali (Diwali or Divali) is India’s best-known festival. It is a day of Hindu solidarity, when all Hindus gather in love and trust. Deepa means lamp, and Deepavali (row of lamps) is observed by lighting rows of oil lamps and exchanging greeting cards, clothing and other gifts. Family bonds are strengthened and forgiveness sought. For many, Diwali marks the beginning of the new year. Joyous festivities and parties abound throughout the 5 days of Diwali.
In Hindu culture, light is a powerful metaphor for knowledge and consciousness. It is a reminder of the preciousness of education, self-inquiry and improvement, which bring harmony to the individual, the community and between communities. By honoring light, we affirm the fact that from knowing arises respect for and acceptance of others. Lighting lamps reminds Hindus to keep on the right path, to dispel darkness from their hearts and minds, and to embrace knowledge and goodness.
What do Hindus do for Diwali?
Diwali is celebrated by Hindus worldwide to commemorate the triumph of good over evil, knowledge over ignorance, hope over despair. Oil-wick lamps are lit in every household, along with colorful strings of electric lights, causing the home, village and community to sparkle with dancing flames. The festival falls on the day before the new moon in the month of Ashwin (October/ November). Communities spare nothing in celebration. Lavish spreads of sweets and treats reflect unfettered partying.
Diwali lehyam—a potent concoction made with ginger, pepper, ghee and more—is provided to help gourmands digest the sumptuous feast. Families reach out to each other with gifts of sweets, dried fruit and crunchy, salty treats. Everyone wears colorful new clothing and many even new jewelry. Girls and women decorate their hands with henna designs.
Family prayers and seeking blessings from elders in the family are essential. It is also good to visit the temple and join the festive mood with family and friends. Observe a vegetarian diet. No meat or alcohol should be served or consumed.
What legends are associated with Diwali?
In the sacred text Ramayana, Diwali marks the return of Rama to his kingdom after defeating Ravana, the demon king who ruled Sri Lanka and kidnapped Rama’s pious wife, Sita. It also celebrates Krishna’s victory over Narakasura, the demon of ignorance. Rama and Krishna are earthly incarnations, or avatars, of Vishnu.
Does ritual bathing play a part?
Diwali marks the conquest of negative forces. To wipe away all traces of life’s struggle, the negative and draining energies of strife, Hindus invoke the waters of India’s holiest rivers—Ganga, Yamuna, Godavari, Sarasvati, Narmada, Indus and Kaveri— into water collected in urns in preparation for an ablution after an oil massage. The special bath cleanses the physical and auric energies of the individual.
Fragrant powders of dried lentils, roots, aromatic seeds, leaves and flowers are used to remove the oil.
Families then don fine new clothes, beautiful patterns, rangoli, are drawn on the ground, and lamps are lit until entire streets glow. Even the White House in Washington, D.C., is illumined by the gentle glow of oil lamps during its annual Diwali observances.
What else is done for Diwali?
Melas, or fairs, are held in all Indian towns and villages. In the countryside, the mela includes a festive marketplace where farmers bring their produce to sell and clothing
vendors have a heyday.
Are there customs for the day after Diwali?
The following day, families offer special prayers to Lakshmi for a prosperous year. This ritual worship is also directed to Kubera, the celestial being who distributes wealth to mortals. As Hindus pray for comfort and the family’s material wealth, it is believed that things should not be given away or donated on this one day of the year.
What are the giant effigies that are burned by big crowds?
Huge effigies of Ravana, with ten heads, are built of straw and filled with firecrackers. They are burned as a joyous, symbolic cleansing from evil, and lights are lit in every home, just as residents of Ayodhya did to welcome home their victorious king, Rama.
- Read more about Diwali here (a downloadable 1 page pdf that can also be used as a media release.)
- What is Diwali
- Diwali in Tamil Nadu
What foods are offered?
Sweet things play an important role during Diwali, especially barfi and laddus. For Prasad/Naivedyam, here are some suggestions:
Food for Diwali
- Rice Kheer
- Tropical Coconut Sago
- Two Payasams – Indian Vermicelli and Sago
- Baked Chickpeas
- Indian Eggless Custard
- Parsi Sev and here
- Payasam Kheer by Nachi