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Welcome to the David Victor Vector blog. This is blog that covers religious observances around the world international affairs and global business. This blog describes religious holidays for most major religions as well as raising issues dealing with globalization, international business ethics, cross-cultural business communication and political events affecting business in an integrated world economy. I look forward your discussion and commentary on these articles and subjects. Enjoy!

Thursday, November 4, 2021


For 2021, the Hindu, Jain and Sikh celebration of Diwali begins on Thursday November 4 and will continue for five days through Tuesday November 9.

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 India (and especially in the North), the business community starts their financial new year with the holiday, and it is the beginning of the fiscal year. 

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 Traditions

Various traditions for celebrating Diwali include lighting of oil lamps (diyas or jyothis), setting off of fire crackers, exchanging and eating decorated sweets, gathering at people's holiday-decorated homes in celebration and visiting temples.   

Narkasur dancing, Goa
While lighting diyas is universal and gif exchanges are fairly universal. often different regios have different traditions. For instance, in Goa the battle in which Lord Krishna defeats the demon Narkasur is commemorated. This often takes the form of burning an effigy of the demon Narkasur, often accompanied by drumming.  Contests are held in which prizes awarded to those with the best battle depiction as well as best costumes. Likewise, it is common in Goa for those dressed as the demon Narkasur to dance outside people's homes. I have a Goan friend who shared who Narkasur would frighten him and the other children until the burning of the Narkasur effigy showed victory of good over evil.

In much of South India, Diwali begins with Abhyanga Snan, a ritual oil bath. The bath, usually a massage using sesame oil, is thought to rid the body of toxins and pollutants to give one a fresh start for the new year, and to balance the pitta or fire energy. Pitta is one of the five basic elements of Ayurveda.

In Bengal. Odisha and Assam, Diwali coincides with Kali Puja. While most Hindus worship Laxmi and Ganesha on this day, eastern Indians give honor to Kali, the goddess of death. Unlike many Divali worship traditions which predate historic records, the combination of Kali Puja on the date of Diwali dates only back to the 1600s ("only" in Indian terms means that 500 years is not that long ago, as opposed to North American and Australian views, for instance). For Kali Puja, devotees set up altars (pandals) with sculptures of the goddess Kali (and often accompanied by Lord Shiva the Destroyer, who is her consort. Devotees offer Kali red hibiscus flowers, rice and lentils. Kali Puja rituals takes place at night in darkness -- the opposite of the Diwali worship of light.   Worship at major temples in East India also are centers of worship on Kali Puja. Of particular note are those temples specifically devoted to Kali. Among these is the Kali Temple in Kolkatta's Kalighat district, which is a major Shakt Pita (pilgrimage site). Other notable temples devoted to Kali are the Kripamayee Kali Temple in Baranagar, West Bengal and Bjadrakali Temple in Aharapada in Odisha.

In different parts of India, the holiday is marked by the giving of gifts of new utensils (especially cooking utensils), wearing of new clothes and/or the cleaning and painting of homes or workplaces. Many cities and towns also hold Diwali melas or open-air fairs during Diwali. 

Diwali and the Economy

Because gift-giving and gathering with family are major components of Diwali, the holiday has an impact on the economy in India, Nepal, Mauritius, Sri Lanka, Fiji, Bali and other areas with large Hindu populations. The effect is comparable to Christmas season in Christian country and the lunar New Year in East Asia.

The pandemic severely affected spending in 2020, although some improvement is anticipated for 2021. 

YouGov India followed spending during the pandemic. In 2020, over half (54%) of Indians spent less than the previous year. That figure is expected to improve for 2021 (with only 31% saying less and 28% saying the same), but this is still not expected to be back to normal yet.

Laxmi and Ganesha

For most Hindu traditions, Laxmi (or Lakshmi), the goddess of prosperity is especially revered on Divali. With homes with children, people often leave female footprints on the floor after the children have gone to sleep so that when they wake up they will see that the goddess Laxmi has visited the home in the night.

Laxmi footprints

Since her devotees invited Laxmi to visit their homes on Diwali, some traditions include setting up a greeting pylon at the main gate to one's courtyard or entrance to one's home to welcome her. Laxmi's worshippers usually decorate the pylon with flowers and painted parts from local plants such as mango or banana leaves.
Welcoming pylon with painted banana leaves

Likewise given special reverence is Lord Ganesha, the elephant-headed god of prosperity and wealth. This makes reverence for Ganesha particularly appropriate since it is customary at Diwali to ask for good fortune and wealth for the coming year.  

Moreover, the history of the goddess Laxmi and the god Ganesha are particularly intertwined. Because Laxmi was childless, she adopted Ganesha from his mother Parvati. When Laxmi did so, she pronounced that all of her prosperity and luxury would belong equally to Ganesha. Laxmi also proclaimed that those who do not worship Ganesha with her will never achieve wealth in their lives. Also connected to the worship of of Ganesha is the tradition that he is the most righteous deity. 

Diwali oil lamps set before Laxmi and Ganesha

Traditional foods
Gulab jaman
Special foods are often eaten. Some of these are widely eaten throughout India. For instance, regardless of region, it is customary to eat things that are sweet such as gulab jaman, which is usually made of milk dough soaked in rosemary, sugar syrup and cardamom. A recipe for gulab jaman can be found at:


Also, specialties made with cashews or pistachios are also widely eaten for Diwali. In much of India, delicacies are made from Lord Krishna’s favorite food Poha (also called Foav or Pauva) which is pounded semi-cooked sweetened rice and eaten on the second day of the festival. 

Other Diwali food specialties are more regional.  For example, in much of the north of India, people eat patandas made of flour, unprocessed sugar cane and ghee as well as poodas (or mal poohas) made of flour and sugar syrup and eaten with chutney. 

Sel roti
In Nepal, the traditional treat for Tihar (the Nepali name for Diwali) is called sel roti. Made of rice flour, milk and ghee and (depending on custom) flavored with cardamom or clove, the sel roti is somewhat like a thin, circular doughnut. Many Nepalis exchange sel roti with one another as gifts throughout Tihar. A recipe for sel roti can be found at 


In the far south of India, many sweets are eaten leading up to Diwali and into the first day, notably those made from honey and unprocessed sugar cane.   
Mawa Kachori
In Maharashtra a special mix of cane sugar and coriander seeds is customarily eaten on the first day. In Rajasthan, many people traditionally begin the holiday by eating Mawa Kachori, a puffed pastry made with sweetened evaporated milk (mawa) and nuts. A recipe for Mawa Kachori can be found at: 

Religious Significance Diwali

Lord Krishna defeating Narakasura
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York 
Hindu Traditions 

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.

First (and especially in South India), the holiday of Diwali commemorates the victory of Lord Krishna over the demon king Narakasura, and so the victory of good over evil. Narakasura -- himself a son of Vishnu -- had become power-crazed overwelming Indra and other Vedas. He also became horribly abusive to women, enraging Krishna's wife Stayabhama and her relative Aditi. At the pleading of the Vedas and Aditi, Krishna attacked the demon. Riding on the battle-eagle Garuda, Krishna withstood various attacks from the armies of Narakasura, then withstood the thunderbolts and trident attacks of Narakasura himself. Krishna then used his discus to behead the demon king. Before dying, though, Krishna was asked to celebrate the anniversary of his death as a holiday, to which Krishna agreed. As a result, the first day of Diwali is celebrated as such. 

Rama defeating Ravana
Second (and especially in North India), Diwali celebrates the return after 14 years of exile of King Rama and his wife Sita and brother Lakshmana. The holiday marks their return after a war in which King Rama killed the demon Ravana.  Because it was dark as they returned, people lit oil lamps to light their way and thus the link of light over darkness. 

Third, in Bhavishyottara and Bramhavaivarta Purana holy writings, Diwali is associated with Daitya king Bali, who is allowed to return to earth once a year.

The Significance of the Five Days

For Hindus, each of the five days carries a different significance. The first day throughout India 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.



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 India is the giving of gold and jewelry gifts to bring about prosperity, making Diwali a major day for jewelers.  In northern 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. 

Diwali fireworks

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 West Bengal, as part of the Puja Kali celebrations, the second day is observed as the day the goddess Kali destroyed the demon Raktavija. Regardless of tradition, this is the traditional day for cracking open crackers (of the sort used in Britain on Christmas Day) and for setting off of firecrackers. Many areas have major firework displays on the second day of Diwali.

Swami Dayananda Saraswati
The third day of Diwali for most Hindu traditions centers on the veneration of Laxmi. That said, the third day of Diwali also marks the anniversary of the death in 1883 of the founder of the Arya Samaj Hindu Reform Movement Swami Dayananda Saraswati.  The followers of the Arya Samaj therefore often mark the day as a day of remembrance for Swami Dayananda Saraswati.

Lord Krishna 
lifting Gorvardhan
The fourth day of Diwali is celebrated in many Hindu traditions with a special Govardhan Puja. This puja commemorates Lord Krishna’s defeat of the rain god Lord Indra by lifting Govardhan Mountain. Some interpretations (there are many variations) explain that Lord Krishna needed to defeat the Lord Indra because the rain god had become to arrogant and filled with self-pride. In doing so Lord Krishna taught worshipers to pray to more than just the rains by embracing the whole of nature. This celebration is also called Annakut (literally meaning “pile of grain”) because people in many parts of India decorate a mountain of grain symbolizing Govardhan Mountain.

On the fifth Day of Diwali comes the Bhai Duj or Bhai Teeka, a final day of celebration. On this day traditionally, brothers visit the houses of their sisters to honor them and bring gifts. Sisters in turn feed their brothers special delicacies. The celebration commemorates the visit on this day of the death god Lord Yama to his twin sister Yami (also called Yamuna or Yamini), the first woman. Lord Yama gave his sister a special gift that whoever visited her on this day would be cleared of sins.

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

Lord Mahavira


In Jainism, Diwali is of particular significance. Jains, like Hindus, celebrate the holiday not only as the beginning of their New Year and as a time for a fresh start. Importantly, though, Jains also celebrate the holiday as the anniversary of Moksha (the attaining of nirvana) of Lord Mahavira, the founder of the religion.

Diwali Traditions in Sikhism

In Sikhism, Diwali is celebrated as a commemoration of the release from prison of the sixth Sikh Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji.  When Jahangir, the fourth Mughal emperor succeeded his father -- the famously religiously tolerant Akbar the Great. Although he was not a particularly devout Muslim, Jahangir  felt threatened by the non-Muslims in his empire, including the Sikhs but also many Hindus. As a result of his concerns regarding the Sikhs, Jahangir arrested Hargobind's father the fifth Sikh Guru Arjan Dev. Jahangir tortured Guru Arjan Dev for five days before having him killed. 

Release of Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji 
and the 52 Hindu Kings
At this point, the young Hargobind -- only eleven years old at the time -- became the sixth Sikh Guru. Jahangir arrested the young Guru Hargobind but did not kill him as he had killed his father. Instead, Guru Hargobind was imprisoned (along with 52 Hindu kings) at Gwalior Fort. He remained there from 1617 until Diwali of 1619 when Guru Hargobind and the Hindu kings were freed. It is this release from imprisonment that the Sikhs celebrate at Diwali. The holiday is commonly called Bandi Chorh Divas or Prisoner Release Day.

Concluding Remarks

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! 

Want to learn more?

For Hindu traditions, you may wish to look at

For Sikh tradtions and the story of Guru Hargobind, turn to

For Jain traditions, turn to 

Lord Krishna defeating the demon Narakasura: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Krishna_Narakasura.jpg


Release of Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji and the 52 Hindu Kings: http://jattsingh.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Bandi-Chhorh-Divas.jpg

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