The Festival of Lights, Diwali is here to brighten up our lives.
Hindus biggest festival ‘Diwali’ is one of the most widely celebrated religious occasions across the world. While Diwali is one of the few festivals that does not have a regional root and is celebrated across the world, it is also a festival that has as many stories associated with it as the number of different traditions and religions that celebrate it. Here are some of the most surprising facts about Diwali that you probably didn’t know.
A festival across religious lines
While Diwali is considered predominantly to be a Hindu festivity, the reality is that it is an occasion that is celebrated by several other religions including Jainism, Sikhism and numerous folk religions.
The day Lakshmi roams the earth
The prime reason why Diwali is marked by flamboyant decorations, new clothes and flashy displays of colors and lights is because it is widely believed that Diwali is the day on which the Hindu goddess of prosperity, Lakshmi supposedly roams the Earth and blesses people with wealth and happiness.
A five-day extravaganza
Diwali takes place annually and lasts for five days, marking the start of the Hindu New Year. The exact dates change each year and are determined by the position of the moon – but it usually falls between October and November.
Festival of lights
True to its name as the festival of lights, Diwali marks the time when households across the country decorate their homes with lit diyas, or little clay lamps, and other festive lights. Buildings and streets are also illuminated with colorful lighting. Temples and public institutions, as well as individual households, celebrate by hosting spectacular firework displays.
Triumph of good over evil
It’s also a celebration of good triumphing over evil, and different legends based on this theme are associated with Diwali. In northern India, Hindus celebrate the return of the deities (gods) Rama and Sita to the city of Ayodhya, after defeating the evil king Ravana!
A ‘cracker’ of a time
The most popular and ubiquitous tradition associated with Diwali is the bursting of firecrackers. However, this is a recent addition to Diwali celebrations, since until the 1900s firecrackers and pyrotechnics were too expensive and were only used by the royals.
Dhanteras, Hindus Golden Day
It is estimated that Indian households hold a record 11% of the the total gold in the world. And a large chunk of it is bought every year as a custom during the festival of Dhanteras, which usually falls two days before Diwali. On Dhanteras, not only do families buy gold, they also clean and decorate their houses with elaborate rangolis (colorful powder designs usually made in the courtyard of the house) and more recently, fairy lights.
All is fair on Diwali
While Diwali is supposed to be a festival that signifies piety and purity, it is also the one day most associated with ‘fun’ for Indian families. One of the most popular traditions during Diwali in north India is that of playing cards and gambling with money in the evening. On this day alone, the family’s elders and youngsters all get together to take part in this fun activity.
Rangoli is a popular Diwali tradition –– beautiful patterns made using colourful powders and flowers. People draw rangoli on the floor by the entrance of their homes to welcome the gods and bring good luck!
Diwali around the world
Diwali celebrations span across the globe and are observed by Hindus and non-Hindus alike. In addition to India, the festival is an official holiday in Fiji, Guyana, Pakistan, Malaysia, Mauritius, Myanmar, Nepal, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago. The city of Leicester in the UK is said to host the world’s biggest Diwali celebrations outside of India.