The festive holiday Diwali, also known as the Festival of Lights, is Nov. 7 this year. Diwali is India’s biggest and most important holiday of the year and is celebrated in a variety of ways.
Diwali got its name from the clay lamps that Indians put out in a row that light up outside their house. It symbolizes the inner light that protects them from the spiritual darkness. Similarly to how Christmas is important to Christians, this festival is as important to Hindus. Even though it’s a festival important to Hindus, it has been a holiday that is celebrated by most Indians regardless of their faith whether they are Jains, Buddhists or Sikhs. “It’s a festival to bring the community together to celebrate life,” senior Keerat Singh said.
Diwali lasts five days and each day consists of a traditional activity. On the first day, those celebrating consider it favorable and a sign of success if they clean the home and shop for gold or kitchen utensils. The second day, they decorate their homes with clay lamps and create design patterns called rangoli on the floor using colored powders or sand. The main day is the third day where families get together for Lakshmi puja, a prayer to Goddess Lakshmi. The fourth day will be the first day of the new year where families visit with gifts and best wishes for the season. On the last day, it’s a tradition for brothers to visit their married sisters with love and a lavish meal. “I like the food. There is khee,r which is like a rice pudding that is made. There is Laddoos, gulab-jamun, imarti, and jalebi which are other Indian sweets,” senior Archita Sood said.
Diwali marks the day where good beats the evil. In the Hindu communities, different parts of India like the north, south and west have different perspectives and stories behind Diwali. In northern India, they celebrate King Rama’s return to Ayodhya after he defeated Ravana. In southern India, they celebrate the day as a celebration that Lord Krishna defeated the demon Narakasura. In the western part of India, the day marks the celebration that Lord Vishnu sent the demon King Bali to rule the nether world.
Non-Hindu communities have different reasons to celebrate the holiday. In Jainism, it is the day where Lord Mahavira awakens. In Sikhism, it is the day that Guru Hargobind Ji was freed from imprisonment.