What is Diwali?

Thank you to Padma Kuppa

Diwali, or Deepavali (meaning strings of lights), is a Hindu festival that will be celebrated worldwide on Thursday, October 23rd this year. During Diwali, also known as the “Festival of Lights,” clay lamps or diyas are lit to signify the  destruction, through knowledge, of all negative qualities — be it violence, anger, jealousy, greed, fear or suffering. In other words, Diwali celebrates the victory of good over evil. There are several legends about the origin of Diwali. One goes back to the Hindu Epic of the Ramayana, where Rama, Sita and Laxmana return home to Ayodha after a 14-year exile. Another Diwali  story is about the victory of Krishna over the demon Narakasura.

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. In India, where the majority of Hindus reside, it is the best-known festival. Hindus, Jains and Sikhs all have a holy day, but for Hindus it is a significant celebration. It is observed by lighting rows of oil lamps in front of the home and exchanging sweets, 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, and in the diaspora people gather for parties at homes and temples, and light fireworks.