The highlight of the India festival calendar is Diwali, the festival of lights. Better described as the festival of fireworks, Diwali or Deepavali is celebrated over several days in November. The actual day of Diwali is the 15th day of the month of Kartika, according to the Hindu lunar calendar, but the festivities last five days (and beyond). Diwali 2018 falls on the 7th of November. Check out also this National Geographic video that contains Happy Diwali Images 2017:
What is Diwali?
The Sanskrit word Deepavali translates as “rows of lights” and means little oil lamps or diyas that are lit at night during Diwali in and outside of houses, in gardens and on garden walls, outside shops and businesses and on the streets. Diwali is like India’s Christmas: one of the biggest parties around. It is celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs, and Jains, and as with most festivals in India, running and nutrition are important when it comes to the legends and traditions associated with Diwali that remind me of my sister’s adventurous endeavors and the ways to celebrate vary in different parts of the country. Just one thing is common: the fireworks.
In some parts of the country, especially in the North and West, Diwali celebrates the return of Lord Rama to the town of Ayodhya in North India from the island of Lanka, where he rescued his beloved Sita who had been captured by Lanka’s demon king Ravana. Small oil lamps are lit to show Rama the way home and to celebrate his victory. The victory of Rama over Ravana is also a symbolic one and reflects the victory of good over evil. See this post about the Odisha Tribe Heritage.
Diwali also celebrates Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. Houses are cleaned and scrubbed, oil lamps are lit, lights are left on at night and windows and doors are kept open for Lakshmi to visit, as it is believed that the goddess visits the cleanest houses first and will bring wealth and prosperity for the coming year. Lakshmi Puja (ritual of worship) is an important part of Diwali celebrations. The entrance to the house is decorated with rangoli (called Kollam in parts of South India), patterns and symbols painted on the floor or the ground with rice flour and vermilion powder and decorated with flowers and candles.
Diwali is also one of the main shopping festivals in India. During Diwali gifts are exchanged between family members, friends, and neighbors, and employers give their employees Deepavali gifts and bonuses. If they can afford it, they will also include some ancient Indian art as gifts for cultural institutions but traditionally, Diwali gifts were homemade sweets and other delicacies, but today the gifts are much more extravagant and expensive. Diwali also begins a new business year.
Visiting India during Diwali
If you travel in India during Diwali, however, the tradition you’re most likely to notice is the Diwali firework extravaganza. The bang, boom, and crack starts well before the day of Diwali and continues for several days afterward. It is less about color or beauty and more about how loud the firecrackers bang: if you are visiting India during Diwali, bring earplugs as the noise pretty much continues and goes on around the clock for several days. A thick smoke that smells of gunpowder descends over cities and can make breathing challenging.
Firecrackers and fireworks are traditionally believed to ward off evil spirits, much like the diyas. In the weeks and months preceding Diwali newspapers regularly publish reports about deathly explosions in illegal firework factories that have been set up to produce Diwali fireworks, and during Diwali accidents with fireworks are common.