Diwali

Diwali, the "festival of lights", is an ancient Hindu festival celebrated in autumn (northern hemisphere) every year. Arguably the most important festival in Hinduism, it is an official holiday in Fiji, Guyana, India, Malaysia, Mauritius, Nepal, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago. The festival spiritually signifies the victory of light over darkness or good over evil, knowledge over ignorance, and hope over despair. Its celebration includes millions of lights shining on housetops, outside doors and windows, around temples and other buildings in the communities and countries where it is observed. The festival preparations and rituals typically extend over a five-day period, but the main festival night of Diwali coincides with the darkest, new moon night of the Hindu Lunisolar month Kartika. In the Gregorian calendar, Diwali night falls between mid-October and mid-November.

Before Diwali night, people clean, renovate, and decorate their homes and offices. On Diwali night, Hindus dress up in new clothes or their best outfit, light up lamps and candles inside and outside their home, participate in family puja (prayers) typically to Lakshmi – the goddess of fertility and prosperity. After puja, fireworks follow, then a family feast including mithai (sweets), and an exchange of gifts between family members and close friends. Deepavali also marks a major shopping period in nations where it is celebrated.

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Posts for Diwali

Diwali in the White House

Diwali in Washington, D.C., USA
Anonymous
Diwali in Washington, D.C., USA

Barack Obama became the first president to personally attend Diwali at the White House in 2009. On the eve of his first visit to India as the president of United States, Obama released an official statement sharing best wishes with "those celebrating Diwali."

Diwali in the USA

Diwali in NYC, NY, USA
Anonymous
Diwali in NYC, NY, USA

Diwali is not a nationwide public holiday in the United States, but is celebrated in many towns and cities. For example, in New York City there are large bhangra parties in Times Square, and many of the buildings have special light shows in honor of Diwali.

New USA Diwali Stamp

Diwali in New York, NY, USA
Anonymous
Diwali in New York, NY, USA A Diwali stamp was launched here by the US postal service in 2016, capping a seven-year effort by Indian-Americans and influential American lawmakers to commemorate the festival of lights. The stamp was unveiled at the Indian Consulate at an elaborate "first-day-of-issue" dedication ceremony on Oct. 5 2016.

Diwali Celebrations in Trinidad & Tobago

Diwali in Port of Spain, Trinidad
Anonymous
Diwali in Port of Spain, Trinidad

Trinidad & Tobago, in the southern-most part of the Caribbean, is one of the most exciting, colorful islands of the West Indies. Trinidad and Tobago has a large ethnic Indian population. In fact 43% of the people are ethnically Indian. Therefore, Hindu festivals, customs, traditions and observances are an integral part of the society.

The belief behind the Diwali festival is same as of India, which is the prevalence of good over evil. However, Diwali has its own significance as it is an opportunity to unite the country and strengthen the bonds between the different ethnic groups, Indo-Trinidadians and Afro-Trinidadians, and the religious denominations, Hindus, Muslims and Christians. So on top of the usual rituals, emphasis is placed on several cultural and religious parts of the programme and has enormous positive impact in Trinidad as well as among the diaspora living abroad. The celebrations continue for over a week and the headquarters of the National Council of Indian Culture at Diwali Nagar is the focal point.

Diwali in Manchester

Diwali in Manchester, UK
Anonymous
Diwali in Manchester, UK Manchester hosts a popular Diwali festival every year, which features bhangra and Bollywood performances, crafts, jewellery and clothes stalls, henna and face painting, lantern making and outdoor theatre – visitors are invited to make their own lanterns and join in the dramatic procession after dark.

Leicester: the largest Diwali celebrations outside India!

Diwali in Leicester, UK
Anonymous
Diwali in Leicester, UK Leicester’s annual fortnight-long Diwali festival, is often considered as the biggest and best outside India. It lures more than 35,000 visitors of all faiths from across Britain, Europe, the United States and Canada, to enjoy a spectacle that’s like Christmas. Leicester has a most imposing Hindu temple, the Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, which looks like transplanted straight from the banks of the Ganges. This magnificent temple was built by Leicester’s 40,000 Hindus – most of them Gujaratis, who spared no efforts to raise £4 million to build this temple. The temple has now become the center of Diwali celebrations, attracting worshippers and visitors from all corners of the world.

Diwali celebrations in Britain

Diwali in London, UK
Anonymous
Diwali in London, UK

Indians are the second largest ethnic minority in Britain. For them, Diwali is the most important festival of the year, which, according to the Hindu solar calendar, falls in the cold, damp and windy months of October-November in Britain. Traditionally, ethnic Indians light their homes and surroundings with Diya, and keep their doors wide open in the chill weather to welcome the visit of Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth. They visit the local temple to worship the shrine of Lakshmi, eat special sweets, burn incense sticks, and blow the conch shell after the prayer session in the Lakshmi temple.

In addition every year, London’s famous Trafalgar Square witnesses the celebration of Diwali. There one can taste all kinds of Indian food, enjoy music and dances by community groups and professional artists, you can try on saris, get an ayurvedic massage or makeover in the ‘beauty zone’ or browse for gifts at the Indian bazaar. All the entertainment here was free, like many of the events that take place in the city run by the Mayor of London's office.

Diwali Celebrations in South Africa

Diwali in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa
Anonymous
Diwali in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa South Africa has one of the largest Indian communities in the world, numbering almost one million. Most of ethnic Indians are concentrated in the eastern provinces of Natal and Transvaal. 65% residents in that area are Hindus. Therefore Hindu festivals are celebrated here. Diwali is an important festival of the region. The celebration is similar to that in India. Most of the Hindus here are from Gujarat and Tamil Nadu and continue to follow their regional variations of Hinduism.

Festival of peace

Diwali in Attari, Punjab
Anonymous
Diwali in Attari, Punjab Diwali is a festival of peace. Hindu, Jain and Sikh communities devote this occasion for charitable causes and for peace. For example, every year on Diwali at the Pakistan-India border, Indian forces approach Pakistani forces and offer traditional Indian sweets on the occasion of Diwali. The Pakistani soldiers anticipating the gesture, return the goodwill with an assortment of Pakistani sweets.

Diwali in Sikhism

Diwali in Amritsar, India
Anonymous
Diwali in Amritsar, India Diwali for Sikhs marks Bandi Chhor Divas (Day of Liberation), when Guru Har Gobind freed himself and some Hindu Rajahs, from the Gwalior Fort, from the prison of the Mughal emperor, Jahangir, and arrived at the Golden Temple in Amritsar. Ever since then, Sikhs celebrate Bandi Choorh Divas, with the annual lighting up of Golden Temple, fireworks and other festivities. In the post-Guru Gobind Singh era, Sarbat Khalsa used to meet on Diwali and Baisakhi to discuss important issues concerning Sikh community.

Naraka Chaturdashi in Goa

Diwali in Goa, India
Anonymous
Diwali in Goa, India In Goa, paper-made effigies of Narakasura, filled with grass and firecrackers symbolising evil, are made. These effigies are burnt at around four o'clock in the morning and then firecrackers are burst, and people return home to take a scented oil bath. Lamps are lit in a line. The women of the house perform aarti of the men, gifts are exchanged, a bitter berry called kareet is crushed under the feet in token of killing Narakasura, symbolising evil and removal of ignorance. Different varieties of Poha and sweets are made and eaten with family and friends.

Diwali Celebrations in Mauritius

Diwali in Port Louis, Mauritius
Anonymous
Diwali in Port Louis, Mauritius

Mauritius, an island in the Indian Ocean, is full of picturesque landscapes and enchanting spots. Mauritius has a population that is 63% ethnic Indian, of which 80% are Hindu. Hence, almost all the Hindu festivals are celebrated in this country.

In Mauritius, Diwali holds special significance, as it is believed that Diwali has been celebrated even before the return of Lord Rama from 14 years of exile to be crowned as king. The festival is marked by lightening of earthen lamps in rows. Lakshmi is worshiped as the goddess of wealth and crackers are burnt to scare away evil spirits.

Diwali in Southern India

Diwali in Mysore, India
Anonymous
Diwali in Mysore, India In Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Goa, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, and parts of Karnataka, Deepavali is traditionally celebrated on Naraka Chaturdasi day while the rest of India celebrates it on the new moon night, which is the next day. People get up earlier and celebrate with oil baths, pooja, and festivals. Firecrackers are usually lit on Deepavali . Some Tamil homes observe "nombu" and do Lakshmi Puja on this day. In Karnataka the festival of Deepawali starts from this day i.e Naraka Chaturdashi and extends till Bali Padyami.

Diwali, a Frenzy Shopping Season

Diwali in India
Anonymous
Diwali in India Diwali is as important to Hindus as the Christmas holiday is to Christians, During the holidays, people exchange gifts with family members, relatives, friends, neighbors, colleagues and acquaintances. Therefore it is a busy shopping season. In addition, Indian offices follow the tradition of offering extra money or ‘bonus’ to their employees. This prompts people to splurge the money on shopping. What’s more, people consider buying during Diwali brings good luck and auspicious future. Many people deliberately delay their shopping till this festival. The frenzy of Diwali shopping kick-starts with Dhanteras when buying certain products, such as kitchen utensils, metal products, jewellery, vehicles, cars, expensive gifts, clothes, sweets etc. are considered propitious. Markets and shopping malls across India are crammed with people. They buy almost everything from silver coins to gold coins, from consumer durables to dry-fruit hampers, from clothes to fashion apparel. As soon as Diwali approaches, people are in a festive and joyous mood, they keep buying, very often they end up buying more than what they would do in normal days, the sale goes many notches up during the festival.

Five days of Diwali

Diwali in India
Anonymous
Diwali in India

The first day of Diwali is called Dhanteras. On Dhanteras, homes and businesses are renovated and decorated. Entrances are made colorful with lanterns and traditional motifs to welcome the Goddess of Wealth and Prosperity. To indicate her long-awaited arrival, small footprints are drawn with rice flour and vermilion powder all over the houses. Lamps are kept burning all through the night. It is also considered auspicious to purchase gold or silver items or at least one or two new utensils. It is believed that some form of precious metal is a sign of good luck. "Lakshmi Puja" is performed in the evenings when tiny Diyas of clay are lit to drive away the shadows of evil spirits. "Bhajans", devotional songs in praise of Goddess Lakshmi, are also sung.

The second day is Naraka Chaturdashi. Hindu literature narrates that the asura (demon) Narakasura was killed on this day by Krishna, Satyabhama and Kali. People decorate their homes with clay lamps and create design patterns called rangoli on the floor using colored powders or sand. Other traditions on this day recall Diwali's origins as a harvest festival. On this day delicacies are prepared from pounded semi-cooked rice (called Poha or Pova). This rice is taken from the fresh harvest available at that time. This custom is prevalent both in rural and urban areas especially in Western India.

The third day is the main day of the festival when families gather together for Lakshmi puja, a prayer to Goddess Lakshmi followed by mouth-watering feasts and firework festivities.

The fourth day is often considered the first day of the new year. Friends and relatives visit each other bearing gifts and best wishes for the season. It is also called Diwali Padva, the day of conjugal relationship, when it is a customary for the wife to put the red tilak on the forehead of her husband, garland him and do his "Aarathi" with a prayer for his long life. In appreciation of her tender care, the husband gives her a costly gift. This Gudi Padwa is symbolic of love and devotion between the wife and husband. In addition, newly-married daughters with their husbands are invited home for special meals and given presents. In olden days brothers went to fetch their sisters from their in-laws home for this important day.

Bhai Dooj, the last day of Diwali, is dedicated to fraternal bonds. Brothers visit their married sisters who welcome them with love and a lavish meal.

Deepavali in Sri Lanka

Diwali in Jaffna, Sri Lanka
Anonymous
Diwali in Jaffna, Sri Lanka Deepavali is a public holiday in Sri Lanka, and is celebrated by its large Tamil community. On this day, it is traditional for people to take an oil bath in the morning, wear new clothes, exchange gifts, pray, and visit the Koil (Hindu temple). Burning of firecrackers in the evening of the festival is a common practice of this festival. Hindus light oil lamps to invite the blessings of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and to banish any evil from the household for once and for all. The festival is marked by illumination, making of toys of enamel and making of figures out of crystal sugar popularly known as Misiri. Sri Lanka's celebration include many of the traditional aspects of Deepavali such as games, fireworks, singing and dancing. Furthermore, the tradition of a large meal, family reunions and fireworks is very much cherished.

Every dog has its day, especially during Tihar

Diwali in Kathmandu, Nepal
Anonymous
Diwali in Kathmandu, Nepal

In Nepal, Deepavali is known as Tihar or Swanti. It is celebrated over the same five day period concurrent with Deepavali in India. The traditions vary from those in India. On the first day (Kaag tihar), crows are given offerings, as they are considered divine messengers. On the second day (Kukur tihar), dogs are given food for their honesty and loyalty. Gai Tihar and Goru Tihar are celebrated on the third day, when cows and oxen are garlanded and fed. The 3rd day is considered the last day of the year according to Nepal Sambat, so many of the businessmen clear their accounts on this day and on finishing it, worship goddess Laxmi, the goddess of wealth. Days before the Laxmi puja, houses are cleaned and decorated; on the day of Laxmi puja, oil lamps are lit near doors and windows. Cultural processions and other celebrations are observed in this day. The Newars celebrate it as Mha Puja, a special ritual in which the body is worshipped to keep it fit and healthy for the year ahead on this day. On the fifth and final day called Bhai Tika, brothers and sisters meet, garland each other, pray for the other's well being, mark the other's forehead with Tika. The brothers give gifts to their sisters, and sisters feed their brothers.

Traditionally, family reunions is an important part of Tihar. Other popular customs include "Deusi and Bhailo". Young girls will assemble into groups, after Laxmi Puja on Diwali. They will sing/dance and play Bhailo at every house in the community one by one. Meanwhile boys will play Deusi at each house. This singing and dancing is to bless each visited house. In return, the owner of the house will reward the dancers with rice, fruit and money. After the festival, people donate some part of the collected money and food to the charity or welfare groups and with the rest of the money and food, they go for a picnic. People also play swing called Dore Ping made out of thick ropes and Pirke Ping or Rangate Ping made out of wood.

Diwali in Jainism

Diwali in Pawapuri, India
Anonymous
Diwali in Pawapuri, India

Diwali has special significance in Jainism. Lord Mahavira, the last of the Tirthankar of this era, attained Nirvana (heaven) on this day at Pavapuri on 15 October 527 BCE, on Kartik Krishna Amavasya. According to the Kalpasutra by Acharya Bhadrabahu, 3rd century BC, many gods were present there, illuminating the darkness. Therefore, Jains celebrate Diwali as a day of remembering Mahavira.

On Diwali morning, Nirvan Ladoo is offered after praying to Lord Mahavira in all Jainsm temples all across the world. Jains tends to avoid firecrackers during Diwali as they cause harm to living organisms. Diwali is celebrated in atmosphere of austerity, simplicity, serenity, equity, calmness, charity, philanthropy and environment-consciousness. Jain temples, homes, offices, shops are decorated with lights and diyas. Relatives distributes sweets to each other. The lights are symbolic of knowledge or removal of ignorance. Swetambar jains observe two days of fasting in remembrance of the penance and sacrifice of Mahavira. In temples and homes, devotees sing and chant hymns and mantras from Jain religious texts in praise of the Tirthankar and congregate for a prayer and recite verses from the Uttaradhyayan Sutra which contain the last teachings of Mahavira. Jain pay visit to Pava-puri on this special day to offer their prayers. The Jain year starts with pratipada, next day after Diwali.

Burmese festivals of lights

Diwali in Rangoon, Myanmar
Anonymous
Diwali in Rangoon, Myanmar

In Myanmar, a predominantly Theravada Buddhist community, there are two festival of lights called Thadingyut and Tazaungdaing. Thadingyut takes place on the full moon day of the 7th month of the Burmese calendar, while Tazaungdaing occurs on the 8th full moon. These mark the events in Buddha's life, such as his return from Tavatimsa heaven. Lights decorate homes and temples, and people worship at Burmese pagodas.

During Tazaungdaing, robe-weaving competitions are held to weave special yellow monk robes called matho thingan throughout the country, most notably in Yangon's Shwedagon Pagoda. During these competitions, held for two consecutive nights (the night preceding and the night of the full moon), contestants work nonstop from night until dawn to weave these garments. The tradition commemorates a widely known story of the Buddha's life. Seeing that the Buddha would soon renunciate, the Buddha's mother, Maya, who had been reborn in the Tavatimsa heaven, spent the entire night weaving yellow monk robes for him. Her sister Gotami (Buddha's aunt) continued this tradition and offered new robes annually.

In Shan State, particularly in Taunggyi, hot air balloons lit with candles, are released to celebrate the full moon day. The balloons are released as an offering to the Sulamani cetiya in Tavitisma, a heaven in Buddhist cosmology and home of the devas, and as a way to drive away evil spirits, although the origins of the tradition date back to 1894, when the British first held hot air balloon competitions in Taunggyi, soon after the annexation of Upper Burma. In recent years, these traditions have also been transported to other parts of the country, including Naypyidaw, which holds an annual government-sponsored celebration, and Pyin Oo Lwin (Maymyo).

Finally, on Tazaungdaing young men play tricks on their neighbours as part of the custom called kyimano pwe (literally crow doesn't wake).

Hari Diwali in Malaysia

Diwali in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Anonymous
Diwali in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Malaysia has a diverse population with a majority of ethnic Malays, but large populations of ethnic Chinese and Indians. The Indian population mostly trace their ancestry to southern India. Therefore Diwali in Malaysia, locally called Hari Diwali, follows many of the same traditions as that of southern India. For example, people will take a traditional oil bath before the festivities, and then visit the temples or offer prayers at household altars. Small lamps made from clay and filled with coconut oil and wicks are a common sight to signify the victory of Lord Rama, the hero of the Hindu epic Ramayana, over the demon king Ravana. Diwali is celebrated almost all over the Malaysia except in Sarawak & Federal Territory of Labuan.