The festival of Diwali (also called as Deepavali, Deepawali, Divali, Devali and -- in Nepal -- Tihar or Swanti) is the most important holiday in the Hindu calendar. It is also an important holiday for Jains and Sikhs.
For most people, the holiday should not affect class or work attendance, but may be observed by many students who practice one of these three religions.
Diwali marks the last day of the Hindu calendar. The holiday can last up to five days and celebrates (at least in part) the victory of light over darkness and good over evil. In much of
Diwali is celebrated throughout the Hindu world, regardless of region (which is not always the case for other holidays). Divali is an official holiday not only in India and Nepal which both of majority Hindu populations, but also in Bali, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Trinidad & Tobago, Malaysia, Guyana, Mauritius and Fiji. Likewise, Diwali is observed by throughout the world, wherever there are Hindus, Sikhs and Jains.
Diwali has three main Hindu religious stories attached to it. While some Hindu traditions have other associations as well, these three are the most widespreaed.
For Hindus, each of the five days carries a different significance. The first day throughout
is customarily dedicated to honoring Dhanavantri (also called Dhanvantar), the physician of the gods and the source of the Ayurveda (in Sanskrit, “the complete knowledge for long life”). Because of its association with Dhanavantri, the first day of Divali is often known as Dhanteras and includes the ritual lighting of oil lamps and veneration of the goddess Laxmi in her owl form. As with most pujas, Lord Ganesha – the deity who removes obstacles – is given honor at the opening of the holiday. India
In many Hindu traditions, the first day of Diwali includes the ritual of Deepdaan in which worshipers light oil lamps for each member of their family and for often for their ancestors then set them afloat (usually) in a river or pond. Another Hindu tradition practiced in much of
is the giving of gold and jewelry gifts to bring about prosperity, making Diwali a major day for jewelers. In northern India India and Gujarat, many Hindus celebrate Yamadeepdaan in which lamps are dedicated to the god of death Yamraj (or Yam) and kept lit all night long. In the far south of India, many Hindus celebrate the days leading up to Diwali as Asweyuja Bahula Thrayodasi, dedicated to the god of finance Lord Kubera in which shopowners whitewash their business, recite a special mantra to Lord Kubera and give coins to honor the goddess Laxmi. In West Bengal, Diwali coincides with the Puja Kali. While the rest of India honors Laxmi on this day, in West Bengal, Hindus honor Kali the Destroyer goddess of time and change.
For many Hindu traditions, the second day of Diwali often begins with ritual bathing before the sun comes up, with an anointing of oil and scrubbing of the body with ubtan (a mixture of fragrances with grains or rough flour). In
|Swami Dayananda Saraswati|
|Lord Krishna |
Diwali in Jainism and Sikhism
As mentioned earlier, Diwali is not only practiced by Hindus. It is also a holiday for Jains and Sikhs.
Diwali Traditions in Jainism
This overview of Diwali is meant only as a very superficial summary. Also, nothing written here is meant to be an indication of one way or another as the proper or correct way to worship. This is meant solely as an attempt to provide a layperson's quick summary of Diwali.
Because there are literally hundreds of separate traditions for celebrating Diwali, I could only cover a few here. Please do feel free to share any of your own traditions that I have not covered.
Whatever your tradition, Happy Diwali!
Release of Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji and the 52 Hindu Kings: http://jattsingh.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Bandi-Chhorh-Divas.jpg