Diwali is the oldest of all the festivals from South Asia. It is also an occasion for celebration by Jains and Sikhs.
The festival of Diwali extends over five days. Because of the lights, fireworks and sweets involved, it’s a great favourite with children. The festival celebrates the victory of good over evil, light over darkness and knowledge over ignorance, although the actual legends that go with the festival are different in different parts of India.
In Britain, as in India, the festival is a time for thoroughly spring-cleaning the home, wearing new clothes and most importantly, decorating buildings with fancy lights.
The British city of Leicester is noted for its Diwali celebrations.
DIWALI – ALSO REFERRED TO AS DEEPAVALI OR DEVALI – TRANSLATION – ROW OF LAMPS
Diwali is an official holiday in India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Mayanmar, Mauritius, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Suriname, Malaysia, Singapore and Fiji.
The day after the celebrations for Diwali is referred to as Gujarati Hindu is seen as the start of the New Year.
Bhai Bij – this is the day for a sister to worship her brother. The brother is the family’s representation of Krishna who killed the demon Narkasura.
Labh Pacham – this is the name given to the start of the new Financial Year for Hindu shopkeepers and Businessmen.
In Goa and Koncan, the day after Diwali they create effigies in the image of the demon Narkasura and burn them early evening.
Diwali marks the end of harvest in most areas of India. They celebrate the year that has been and pray for a good harvest for the year to come.
The word Diwali means ‘row of lamps’. It is commonplace for rows of lamps to be outside of the homes of families celebrating diwali. The little lamps ‘dipa’ are filled with ghee (clarified butter) and light the way for the spirits.
The dipa are left burning all night and Indian homes are cleaned thoroughly to make sure that the goddess Laksmi feels welcome
The Diwali festival celebrates the return of Lord Rama, Sita and Lakshimana after their years in exile.
The celebrations last for five days and each have special significance. The first day is Dhanteras – the financial year starts. The second days is Naraka Chaturdasi – celebrating the vanquishing of Naraka. Day 3 is Amavasya – the worship of Lakshmi – signifies wealth and best wishes to all devotees. Day 4 – Kartika Shudola Padyani – celebrating when Bali took over his new kingdom and day 5 – Yama Dvitya – the day when sisters worship their brothers.
Gambling during Diwali is encouraged as it is believed to bring good luck for the year ahead.
Diwali is significant in the Sikh faith as the foundation stone was laid at the Golden Temple at Amritsar was laid on the first day of Diwali in 1577.
Traditionally, families gather together to visit temple, eat with family and friends a specially prepared festive meal, exchange gifts, cards and traditional sweets.
Diwali would not be complete without the sweets. Traditionally, Indian food is hot a spicy but their desserts are super sweet too so it is a complete opposite. For diwali, the traditional sweets are usually milk flavoured with choices from Laddoos, Kaju Katli, Jalebi and others.