As the end of October approaches, millions of Hindus, Sikhs, and Jains are preparing to celebrate Diwali, the festival of lights, at the end of the month. Beginning Sunday, October 27, Diwali is a 5-day festival that sparks the beginning of the fiscal year in India. As one of the most popular and celebrated Indian holidays, Diwali symbolizes the spiritual victory of light over darkness and good over evil, and it is often associated with the goddess Lakshmi. Why someone celebrates Diwali depends on their spiritual beliefs and where they live. In northern India, Diwali celebrates King Rama’s return to Ayodhya after defeating the demon Ravana by lighting rows of clay lamps. Southern India celebrates Diwali is celebrated to honor Lord Krishna’s defeat of the demon Narakasura. In Western India, Diwali celebrates the day that Lord Vishnu, as Vimana, sent the demon King Bali, or Mahabali, to rule Sutala.
The 5 days of Diwali have different names, and on each day different rituals and activities take place.
The first day of Diwali consists of people cleaning their homes and buying expensive items including, gold, silver, new clothing, and new utensils. This is meant to represent the transition from greed to generosity and invite Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity, into their homes.
Naraka Chaturdashi / Chhoti Diwali
On this day, people create designs called rangoli in the doorways and floors of their homes using colored powders or sand. This is also a day for purchasing festive foods and visiting friends and loved ones.
Diwali / Deepawali
The third day is the actual Diwali when people venerate the Goddess Lakshmi by performing the Lakshmi Puja. Candles and small clay lamps called diyas are lit and placed around the house, and people light fireworks all over, all of which give Diwali its name of “The Festival of Lights.”
Annakut / Padwa / Govardhan Puja
The day after Diwali is the first day of the new year, and it is a day for prayer and celebration. Most businesses are closed as communities prepare large amounts of food that are dedicated to Krishna and shared among the community.
The last day is dedicated to celebrating sisters. Brothers and sisters come together and honor the bond between them. Sisters will prepare food for their brothers, and brothers will give gifts to their sisters.
Diwali is a time of goodwill, generosity, and community. By supporting Akshaya Patra, you can join our community and help provide for the children of India. $20 can provide nutritious school lunches daily for a child for an entire school year. Donate to Akshaya Patra today and help us create a world where no child in India is deprived of education because of hunger.