Beginning Thursday, billions around the world will be celebrating the Hindu festival of light – Diwali.
The ancient ceremony that honors the legend of Hindu gods and goddesses is India’s most grand celebration, bringing together lights, sweet treats, colorful artwork and gifts.
What are the origins of the ceremony and how do people celebrate? Here’s a look at Diwali.
What is Diwali?
Diwali, which means “series of lights,” is a five-day festival that coincides with the Hindu New Year. Diwali falls on the 15th day of Kartika, the holiest month in the Hindu calendar.
Who celebrates Diwali?
Hindus, Sikhs and Jains celebrate the holiday. In Jainism, it marks the spiritual awakening of Lord Mahavira. For Sikhs, it marks the day that Guru Hargobind Ji, the Sixth Sikh Guru, was freed from imprisonment.
What day is Diwali?
The date of the festival changes each year. This year, the celebration falls on Thursday.
What is being celebrated?
Most people are celebrating the legend of the return of the Hindu god Rama and his wife, Sita, to their northern India kingdom of Ayodhya. The legend says Rama and Sita were exiled for 14 years after the defeat of the demon king Rayanna. Some honor Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, during Diwali.
How do people celebrate Diwali?
Homes and businesses celebrate the festival of light by using diyas, which are small clay lamps, and by decorating with strings of lights. There are large fireworks celebrations to honor the message of the celebration of light overcoming the dark.
Rangoli patterns – colorful artwork made of rice or powder – are created at the entrances to homes. New clothes are worn during the festival, and the house is cleaned to welcome Lakshmi before Diwali begins.
During the festival, gifts are exchanged, sweet and savory foods are eaten, and those celebrating are encouraged to help others in need.
What happens during the five days?
Each day has a special meaning. Here is how they are celebrated:
The first day is known as Dhanteras, with Dhan meaning “wealth” and teras meaning the 13th day of the lunar fortnight on the Hindu calendar. On this day prosperity is celebrated.
The second day is known as Naraka Chaturdasi, or Chhoti Diwali, meaning “small Diwali.” On this day, the goddess Kali and Lord Krishna were believed to destroy the demon Narakasura and free more than 15,000 captive princesses.
The third day of the celebrations is known as Amavasya. It is the new moon day. It is celebrated by lighting diyas and candles and shooting off fireworks. It is the most important day of Diwali.
The fourth day is celebrated in northern India as the day Lord Krishna defeated Indra, the god of thunder and rain. In other places, it’s celebrated as New Years.
The fifth day is known as Bhai Duj, which celebrates sisters.
Sources: National Geographic Kids; festivals.awesomeji.com
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