India is a land of festivals, and Diwali is the biggest amongst them all. Also known as the Festival of Lights, Diwali is the most important Hindu festival and is celebrated on a massive scale all over the world. It is especially big in India and Nepal.
This article will briefly highlight the story of Diwali and how it’s celebrated in modern times.
The Story of Diwali
When Ram, a Hindu God, returned home victorious after sucessfully killing Ravan, the demon king of Lanka (present day Sri Lanka), his homecoming celebration is what today known as Diwali or Deepavali.
Now that would be the most uninspiring version of Diwali ever! Here comes a more eminent story…
Ram was an incarnation of one of the Hindu trinity Gods, Vishnu. He was a symbol of virtue and abstinence. Born as the youngest son to the King of Ayodhaya Duryodhan, Ram, in his father’s honour had decided to renounce his claim on the Royal throne. Subsequently he decided to go into exile of 14 years in the forest. His wife Sita and brother Laxman accompanied him.
During his exile in the forest, Ravan of Lanka had abducted Sita. Ram as a result had to wage a colossal war against the mighty Ravan with the help of his monkey army lead by the monkey God Hanuman.
The day of Ram’s victory over Ravan is celebrated as the festival of Dusshehra, which precedes Diwali by 14 days. Later, in honour and celebration of Ram’s glorious return to Ayodhaya, the people lit up their homes with diyas (earthen lamps), giving birth to the tradition of decorating houses with lights; thereby also marking the significance of Diwali – a celebration of the victory of light over darkness, good over evil.
In 2021 Diwali will be celebrated on Thursday, November 4th.
Festival of Lights – The Celebration
The above is one story popular in northern India. Other parts of the country may endear other stories. But the essence of the festival remains more or less the same.
Diwali Celebrations typically last for five days with the first three days being most prominent in many regions of India. The first day marks the occasion of Dhanteras, the second day is Chhoti Diwali (or little Diwali) and the third day being the main day of Diwali.
Much of the modern Diwali decoration actually consists of electric lights with a touch of diyas and candles. Besides decorating their houses, people like to display fireworks – a lot of it. This has obviously become a nuisance and many aware people have in the recent years begun campaigning for pollution-free Diwali.
Before the arrival of Diwali, however, people like to clean up their houses. It is done to welcome Laxmi—the Goddess of wealth & prosperity—into their homes. And this brings us to another aspect of the significance of Diwali – the Hindu New Year!
Yes, Diwali also marks the beginning of a new year for Hindus. At the end of the main day Diwali Hindu businessmen start their books of accounts afresh. This is done in the presence and with the blessings of Lord Ganesh and his wife Laxmi.
Where to Celebrate Diwali?
It goes without saying that Diwali, much like the Festival of Colours – Holi, is best spent in the heart of India. That would be any small- to medium-sized city, just like Varanasi.
When you come over to celebrate Diwali in Varanasi, make sure to check-in at International Travellers’ Hostel for an authentic festive experience 😉
Cover Image Attribution: Diwali photo created by freepik – www.freepik.com