What is Diwali

Diwali, also known as Divali or Deepawali, is a five-day festival celebrated by people of several faiths in India, including many Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, and few Buddhists. The celebration is also referred as the festival of lights. Let us explore what is Diwali and why is it celebrated?

What is Diwali?
Often referred to as a festival of lights, Diwali is majorly is a Hindu festival celebrated with enthusiasm all across India. Hindus honour goddess Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and fortune, by lighting 'diyas,' or small oil lamps, on Diwali. The lamps signify the victory of light or good over the darkness or evil. People exchange gifts, sweets and even often involved in philanthropic activities to make the festival joyful to every section of the society including the lower economic section. While Diwali is a religious festival, it has also evolved into a secular national holiday in India, similar to how Christmas has evolved into a holiday enjoyed by Christians and non-Christians equally in the United States.

Significance of Diwali
Diwali is associated with a multitude of religious legends from other faiths, therefore people's interpretations of it may vary. In general terms, it typically denotes the triumph of light over darkness.
According to Hindu mythology, many people in northern India identify Diwali with the ancient story of King Rama, a manifestation of the Hindu god Vishnu. He saved his wife Sita from the evil king of Lanka, The Ravana. To accomplish his mission, with the help of a monkey army ‘vanara sena’ he prepared stone bridge connecting India and Sri Lanka. It is known as Ram setu. One could still clearly see the bridge intact with the help of google Earth.
Diwali may have a distinct meaning for non-Hindus. According to National Geographic, Diwali "commemorates the nirvana or spiritual awakening of the spiritual leader Mahavira in 527 BCE", the twenty-forth Teerthankar of Jainism. In the meantime, Diwali commemorates the release from captivity of Guru Hargobind Ji, the sixth of the ten Sikh gurus, in the 17th century.

A Five day long Celebration
Day 1: Diwali is a five-day holiday celebrated in India. On the first day, Dhanteras, the Hindu deity of wealth, prosperity, youth, and beauty, is honoured. On this first day, people buy new jewellery, apparel, and utensils, and decorate their homes with lights to welcome Lakshmi.
Day2: The second day, also known as Chhoti Diwali, Naraka Chaturdasi, or Kali Chaudas, commemorates the divinity Krishna's victory over the evil god Narakasura in Hindu mythology. Some individuals put up glittering lights to commemorate his victory on this day. Some also light up candles and diyas on this day.
Day 3: The most important day of the Diwali festival is Diwali, also known as Deepawali or Lakshmi Puja. People gather with family and friends to feast and exchange sweets and presents on this day. People continue to light candles and lamps in honour of Goddess Lakshmi's illumination and prosperity benefits. In the evening, there is Laxmi-Ganesh pujan.
Day 4: On the fourth day, some Hindus in northern India perform Govardhan Puja or Padva, which commemorates Krishna's victory over the Hindu gods' king, Indra, by pulling up a mountain.
Day 5: Bhai Dooj or Yama Dwitiva, the fifth day, is a day for brothers and sisters to commemorate one another. Siblings pray for each other and execute a tilak ceremony.

Special treats
Diwali is a time to spend time with family and eat a lot of sweets. Kaju katli, a fudge-like confection made with crushed cashews and sugar and sometimes flavoured with a splash of rose water, is a popular delicacy. Besan burfi, a fudge-like bar prepared from flour, sugar, and cardamom and topped with almonds or pistachios, is another favourite dessert in northern India. Jalebi, a sweet fried bread, is another popular option. Diwali isn't complete without dessert!

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