Rangoli decorations, made using coloured powder, are popular during Deepavali
Also called Deepavali Observed by Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and BuddhistsTypeHindu, cultural Celebrations Diya and lighting, home decoration, shopping, fireworks, puja (prayers), gifts, feast and sweetsBeginsDhanteras, 2 days before DiwaliEndsBhai Dooj, 2 days after Diwali DateVaries per Hindu Lunisolar calendar2015 date11 November (Wednesday)
10 November (Tuesday) in South India2016 date30 October (Sunday)2017 date21 October (Thursday)Related to Kali Puja, Diwali (Jainism), Bandi Chhor Divas
Diwali (or Deepavali, the “festival of lights”) is an ancient Hindu festival celebrated in autumn (northern hemisphere) every year.Deepavali is the biggest and the brightest festival in India. The festival spiritually signifies the victory of light over darkness. The festival preparations and rituals typically extend over a five-day period, but the main festival night of Deepavali coincides with the darkest, new moon night of the Hindu Lunisolar month Kartika. In the Gregorian calendar, Deepavali falls between mid-October and mid-November.
Before Deepavali night, people clean, renovate and decorate their homes and offices. On Deepavali night, Hindus dress up in new clothes or their best outfit, light up diyas (lamps and candles) inside and outside their home, participate in family puja (prayers) typically toLakshmi – the goddess of wealth and prosperity. After puja, fireworks follow, then a family feast including mithai (sweets), and an exchange of gifts between family members and close friends. Deepavali also marks a major shopping period in nations where it is celebrated.
Deepavali is an important festival for Hindus. The name of festive days as well as the rituals of Diwali vary significantly among Hindus, based on the region of India. In many parts of India,the festivities start with Dhanteras(in Northern & Western part of India), followed by Naraka Chaturdasi on second day, Deepavali on the third day, Diwali Padva dedicated to wife–husband relationship on the fourth day, and festivities end with Bhau-beej dedicated to sister–brother bond on the fifth day. Dhanteras usually falls eighteen days after Dussehra.
On the same night that Hindus celebrate Deepavali , Jains celebrate a festival of lights to mark the attainment of moksha by Mahavira, and Sikhs celebrate Bandi Chhor Divas. Diwali is an official holiday in Nepal, India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Mauritius, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago,Suriname, Malaysia, Singapore, Fiji, Pakistan and the Australian external territory of Christmas Island.
Indoor Diya decoration onNaraka Chaturdasi night
Outdoor Diya decoration on Diwali night
Diwali lanterns beforeDhanteras in Maharashtra
A Nepalese temple lit up for Diwali(Tihar)
Diwali and Bandi Chhor Divas celebrations inAmritsar
Diwali night fireworks over a city(Chennai)
Rural celebrations – floating Diya over river Ganges
Diwali Mithai (sweets)
Diwali festivities include a celebration of sights, sounds, arts and flavors. The festivities vary between different regions.
Diwali is derived from the Sanskrit fusion wordDīpāvali, formed from dīpa (दीप, “light” or “lamp”) and āvalī (आवली, “series, line, row”). Dīpāvali or Deepavali thus meant a “row” or “series of lights”. Its celebration include millions of lights shining on housetops, outside doors and windows, around temples and other buildings in the communities and countries where it is observed.
Diwali (English pronunciation: /dɨˈwɑːliː/) is variously named and spelled/pronounced in diverse languages of India: ‘deepabali’ (Odia:ଦିପାବଲି), ‘deepaboli’ (Bengali: দীপাবলি), ‘deepavali’ (Assamese: দীপাৱলী, Kannada:ದೀಪಾವಳಿ, Malayalam: ദീപാവലി, Tamil:தீபாவளி and Telugu: దీపావళి), ‘divali’ (Gujarati: દિવાળી, Hindi: दिवाली,Marathi:दिवाळी,Konkani: दिवाळी, Punjabi: ਦੀਵਾਲੀ), ‘diyari’ (Sindhi: दियारी), and ‘tihar’ (Nepali: तिहार).
Deepavali dates back to ancient times in India, as a festival after the summer harvest in the Hindu calendar month of Kartika. The festival is mentioned in Sanskrit scriptures such as the Padma Purana, the Skanda Purana both completed in second half of 1st millennium AD but believed to have been expanded from a core text from an earlier era. The diyas (lamps) are mentioned in Skanda Purana to symbolically represent parts of sun, the cosmic giver of light and energy to all life, who seasonally transitions in the Hindu calendar month of Kartik. Hindus in some regions of India associate Diwali with the legend of Yama and Nachiketa on Kartika amavasya(Diwali night). The Nachiketa story about right versus wrong, transient wealth versus true wealth, ignorance versus knowledge is recorded in Katha Upanishad composed in 1st millennium BC.
King Harsha in the 7th century Sanskrit play Nagananda mentions Deepavali asDeepapratipadutsava, where lamps were lit and newly engaged brides and grooms were given gifts. Rajasekhara referred to Deepavali as Dipamalika in his 9th century Kavyamimamsa, wherein he mentions the tradition of homes being whitewashed and oil lamps decorating homes, streets and markets in the night. The Persian traveller and historian Al Biruni, in his 11th century memoir on India, wrote Deepavali being celebrated by Hindus on New Moon day of the month of Kartika.
Diwali fireworks in Melbourne.
In Australia, Deepavali is celebrated publicly among the people of Indian origin and the local Australians in Melbourne. Deepavali At Federation Square has been embraced warmly by the mainstream Victorian population . ‘Celebrate India Inc.’ had started with Deepavali Celebrations in the heart of city at the iconic Federation Square in 2006. The event has now become a part of the Melbourne Arts calendar and is celebrated over a week in the city.
Over 56,000 people had visited the Federation square on the last day of the festival last year and had enjoyed the entertaining live music and traditional dances of India, art and crafts as well as the variety of Indian cuisines with the festival culminating in a spectacular fireworks display on the Yarra River.
Many iconic buildings including the Victorian Parliament, Melbourne Museum, Federation Square, Melbourne Airport and the Indian Consulate are decorated over this week. Along with this, many outdoor dance performances and super banners immerse the city in Deepavali mood in the City and Melbourne Airport. The Deepavali event regularly attracts national organizations like AFL, Cricket Australia, White Ribbon, Melbourne Airport and artists from other communities and India . Their participation and contribution by a team of volunteers makes it a mega event and a show case for Indian community.
From the sheer numbers alone attending over one week period of the festival, Diwali at Federation Square has now been recognized as the biggest celebration in Australia.
On the Australian external territory of Christmas Island, Deepavali is recognised as a public holiday alongside many other celebrations common in Australia, Malaysia as well as local celebrations of the island.
In Trinidad and Tobago, communities all over the islands get together and celebrate the festival. One major celebration that stands out is the Diwali Nagar or Village of the Festival of Lights located in Chaguanas, Trinidad. It features stage performances by the east Indian cultural practitioners, a folk theatre featuring skits and plays, an exhibition on some aspect of Hinduism, displays by Hindu religious sects and social organisations, nightly worship of Lakshmi, lighting of deeyas, performances by schools related to Indian culture, and a food court with Indian and non-Indian vegetarian delicacies. Thousands of people participate in the island wide festivities. Sports grounds, schools and other public locations such as parks, host Deepavali Celebrations. Deepavali celebrations begin with Lakshmi Pooja and continue with lighting deyas and singing, dancing and sharing meals. The festival culminates with fireworks displays ushering in Diwali.
In Fiji, Deepavali is a Public Holiday and is a religious event celebrated together by Hindus (who constitute close to a third of Fiji’s population), and culturally amongst members of Fiji’s races and is a time in the year that is greatly looked forward to. Originally celebrated by imported indentured labourers from the Indian subcontinent during British rule in the then Colony of Fiji during the 19th century, it was set as a holiday at independence in 1970 as the government wished to set aside one religious public holiday each for Fiji’s three largest religions, i.e., Christianity, Hinduism and Islam.
Deepavali in Fiji is often remarked by people from India as being observed on a larger scale then Deepavali celebrations in India, as fireworks and Deepavali related events begin at least a week before the actual day. Another unique feature is the cultural celebration of Deepavali (aside from its traditionally religious celebration) where Fijians of Indian origin or Indo-Fijians, whether Hindu, Christian, Sikh or even Muslim along with the other cultural groups in Fiji celebrate Deepavali as a time for sharing with friends and family as well as signalling the beginning of the Holiday season in Fiji. On the commercial side, Deepavali is a time for many retail sales and giveaways. Deepavali celebrations in Fiji have taken on a flair of its own, markedly different from celebrations on the Subcontinent.
Deepavali marks a time for cleaning and buying new and special clothes for the celebrations amongst cultural groups along with dressing up in Saris and other Indian clothing, to work the day before. Homes are cleaned and Oil lamps or diyas are lit. Decorations are made around the home with an array of coloured lights, candles and paper lanterns, as well as the use of religious symbols formed out of coloured rice and chalk. Invitations are made to family, friends and neighbours and houses are opened. Gifts are made and prayers or pooja are made by Hindus. Sweets and vegetable dishes are often eaten during this time and fireworks are fired for days before and after Diwali.
In New Zealand, Deepavali is celebrated publicly among many of the South Asian diaspora cultural groups. A large group that celebrates Diwali in New Zealand are members of the Indo-Fijian communities who have migrated and settled there. There are main public festivals in Auckland and Wellington, with other events around the country becoming more popular and visible. An official reception has been held at the New Zealand Parliament since 2003. Diwali is celebrated by Hindus. The festival signifies the triumph of light over darkness, justice over injustice, good over evil and intelligence over ignorance. Lakshmi Mata is worshiped. Lakshmi Mata is the goddess of light, wealth and beauty. Special Divali foods are barfi and Prasad.
Diwali decorations in Leicester, United Kingdom.
In Britain, Indian people celebrate Diwali with great enthusiasm. People clean and decorate their homes with lamps and candles. A popular type of candle is a diya. People also give each other sweets such as laddoo and barfi, and the different communities may gather for a religious ceremony and get-together. It is also an important time to contact family in India and perhaps exchange gifts.
The festival of Deepavali has begun to find acceptance in the broader British national consciousness as more non-Hindus appreciate and celebrate Hinduism on this occasion. Hindus celebrate all over the UK which also brings an understanding to different cultures for the rest of the community. Over the past decade national and civic leaders such as Prince Charles have attended Diwali celebrations at some of the UK’s prominent Hindu temples, such as the Swaminarayan Temple in Neasden, using the occasion to commend the Hindu community’s contributions to British life. In 2013, Prime Minister David Cameronand his wife joined thousands of worshipers at the BAPS Swaminarayan Mandir in Neasden to celebrate Diwali and the Annakut festival marking the Hindu New Year. Since 2009, Diwali has been celebrated every year at 10 Downing Street, the residence of the British Prime Minister.The yearly celebration, begun by Gordon Brown and continued by David Cameron, is one of the most anticipated events hosted by the British Prime Minister.
Leicester plays host to some of the biggest Diwali celebrations outside of India.
Several cities in the United States organize Diwali events and celebrations. Above: an event at San Antonio, Texas.
Diwali was first celebrated in the White House in 2003 and was given official status by the United States Congress in 2007 by former president George W. Bush. Barack Obamabecame the first president to personally attend Diwali at the White House in 2009. On the eve of his first visit to India as the president of United States, Obama released an official statement sharing best wishes with “those celebrating Diwali.”
The Diwali Mela in Cowboys Stadium boasted an attendance of 100,000 people in 2009. In 2009, San Antonio became the first U.S. city to sponsor an official Diwali celebration including a fireworks display; in 2012, over 15,000 people attended. In 2011,The Pierre in New York City, now operated by Tata Group’s Taj Hotels, hosted its first Diwali celebration. There are about 3 million Hindus in the United States.
Divali is an official public holiday in the African Hindu majority country of Mauritius.
In Reunion,one quarter of its population are of Indian origin and Deepavali is celebrated by theHindus.
Economics of Diwali
Diwali marks a major shopping period in India. In terms of consumer purchases and economic activity, Diwali is the equivalent of Christmas in the west. It is traditionally a time when households purchase new clothing, home refurbishments, gifts, gold and other large purchases. The festival celebrates Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity, and investment, spending and purchases are considered auspicious. Diwali is a peak buying season for gold and jewelry in India. It is also a major sweets, candy and fireworks buying season. At retail level, about US$800 million (INR 5,000 crores) worth of firecrackers are consumed in India over the Diwali season.
There has been growing concern and questions on the environmental and health impact of Diwali, as with other major festivals of the world.
Scholars report that air pollution worsens not as much during fireworks, but after fireworks celebration is over, with fine particulate matter (PM2.5) levels about four times worse than pre-Diwali levels, and average levels about two times a normal day. This study indicated that there is high accumulation of PM2.5 generated due to fireworks on Diwali festival which remains suspended in the air. The peak pollution lasts for about one day, and the pollutant concentrations return to background levels after 24 hours. Attri et al. report ground level ozone pollution is also formed Diwali, as with fireworks celebrations around the world on New Year eve or respective national Independence Day. The dispersal and decay times for increased ground level ozone is also about one day.
There is an increase in burn injuries in India during Diwali from fireworks. A firework called anar(fountain) has been found to cause 65% of the injuries. Adults are the typical victims. Newspapers advise splashing cold water immediately after the burn, which along with proper nursing of the wound helps reduce complications. Most burns are Group I type burns (minor) requiring outpatient care.
The prayers vary widely by region of India. An example vedic prayer from Brhadaranyaka Upanishad celebrating lights is:
Asato ma sat gamaya | (असतो मा सद्गमय ।)
Tamaso ma jyotir gamaya | (तमसो मा ज्योतिर्गमय ।)
Mṛtyor ma amṛtam gamaya | (मृत्योर्मा अमृतं गमय ।)
Om shanti shanti shantihi || (ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः ॥)
From untruth lead us to Truth.
From darkness lead us to Light.
From death lead us to Immortality.
Om Peace, Peace, Peace.
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