“We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.” - Plato
Diwali, perhaps the greatest and certainly one of the best known Hindu holidays has just been celebrated. The word Diwali means “rows of lighted lamps”. Houses, shops and public places are decorated with small earthenware oil lamps called diyas. The holiday is also known as Deepavali and the “festival of lights”, is an ancient Hindu festival celebrated in autumn every year. The festival spiritually signifies the victory of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, good over evil, and hope over despair. The festival preparations and rituals typically extend over a five day period, but the main festival night of Diwali coincides with the darkest, new moon night of the Hindu Lunisolar month Kartika. In the Gregorian calendar, Diwali night falls between mid-October and mid-November.
Before Diwali night, people clean, renovate and decorate their homes and offices. On Diwali night, Hindus dress up in new clothes or their best outfit, light up diyas inside and outside their home, participate in family puja (prayers) typically to Lakshmi - the goddess of wealth and prosperity. Lamps are lit to help Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, find her way into people's homes. After puja, fireworks follow, then a family feast including mithai (sweets), and an exchange of gifts between family members and close friends. Diwali also marks a major shopping period in nations where it is celebrated. In India, people start the new business year at Diwali, and some Hindus will say special prayers to the goddess for a new successful business year.
Diwali is an important festival for Hindus. The name of festive days as well as the rituals of Diwali vary significantly among Hindus, based on the region of India. In many parts of India, the festivities start with Dhanteras, followed by Naraka Chaturdasi on second day, Diwali on the third day, Diwali Padva dedicated to wife-husband relationship on the fourth day, and festivities end with Bhau-beej dedicated to sister-brother bond on the fifth day. Dhanteras usually falls eighteen days after Dussehra.
On the same night that Hindus celebrate Diwali, Jains celebrate a festival of lights to mark the attainment of moksha by Mahavira, and Sikhs celebrate Bandi Chhor Divas. Diwali is an official holiday in India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Mauritius, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Suriname, Malaysia, Singapore and Fiji.
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