Deepavali, also known as Diwali, is the festival of lights, celebrated over a span of several days. A different tradition is commemorated on each day.
The origin of the festival dates back to ancient India, when it was an important harvest festival. Each legend and story of Deepavali, tells of the significance of victory of good over evil, that light will lift the hearts of its believers, providing strength to find new reason and hope.
Dates of celebration may fall on different dates every year, depending on the prevailing lunar-solar almanac followed. In South India, the first day of celebration commemorates Lord Krishna’s triumph against demon Narakasura. The demon Narakaasura was an arrogant, evil king, who ruled with a reign of terror, often striking fear in his subjects and even gods. It begins on 10 Nov this year. For some newlyweds, this day is extra special as it will be the first time spending Deepavali as husband and wife, it is known as the Thalai Deepavali. The couple starts the important day at the home of the bride’s family, receiving gifts and blessings. They are later joined by the groom’s family at the house.
Things are different in North India, the occasion is known as Diwali and celebrations are conducted over the span of five days. It is regarded as the lunar day of the new moon to welcome King Lord Rama of Ayodhya’s, return from exile. Rama was known to be a great kind and is often held in high regard, he is the seventh avatar of the Hindu god, Vishnu. It begins on 11 Nov this year.
The main event on Diwali in North and West India is the worship of Goddess Lakshmi, goddess of wealth. She likes cleanliness and is said to visit the cleanest house first. This is why spring cleaning is such a major part of preparing for the celebration. This is also why the worshipping of the broom takes place on this day and lamps are lit to light her path to the household.
On this day, Sikhs commemorate the release of Guru Hargobind from imprisonment, where he had tried to get 52 innocent prisoners released with him, a showing of the prevalence of right over wrong in times of unjust. The Jains, on the other hand, celebrate Lord Mahavira’s salvation from the cycle of life and death. Lord Mahavira was the last Tirthankara, a teacher of the true righteous path. It is regarded as their New Year to the Jains.
Typically, young children celebrate with new clothing, delicious snacks like lapsi (large-grain cracked wheat sautéed with ghee and sugar) and murukku (made from rice and urad dal flour and sesame or cumin seeds) and firecrackers (sparklers are an alternative here in Singapore). The noisy cracker-popping racket is believed to ward away evil spirits.
Outside of India, it is also a celebration of South-Asian identities, the occasion means a day of spending time with the family and positivity.