What is Diwali and why is it celebrated?
Diwali is a spectacular religious festival. It is held in late autumn, and on the evenings during this time, the windows of houses are illuminated by lamps and candles. From a distance and in the darkness, these hundreds of glowing lights are a wonderful sight.The word Diwali is a shortened version of Deepavali, which means "cluster of lights".The festival of lights is a universal Hindu festival.
In India Diwali is seen as a renewal of life. On this day old lamps are thrown out and a new lamp are bought. New lamps are thought to help the souls of the dead find their way to heaven.
The festival also commemorates the coronation of Prince Rama. When Rama arrives at the end of 14 years of banishment, Hindus rejoice because Rama has conquered Ravana. He has conquered evil and good has triumphed. People show their happiness and joy by lighting lamps in praise of Rama.
Hindus believe that the souls of ancestors come to visit their homes on the new moon day of Diwali. Lamps are lit to guide the departed souls on their way.
It is interesting to note that Diwali almost coincides with Halloween, which takes place on 31 October, and that Halloween in Europe is also traditionally associated with spirits and the dead. Diwali is also associated with the Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth. It is the day when Lakshmi is supposed to have emerged from the milky ocean to bring prosperity to the world.
Shopkeepers usually close their accounts at this time. They place their ledgers in front of a picture of Lakshmi and pray for better profits in the coming year. Lakshmi is believed to visit homes that are well lit, so families decorate their homes with flowers and paper chains. The streets are hung with garlands of flowers and are full of lights. People wear their best clothes or buy new ones, children are given presents and new year greetings are exchanged through visits or Diwali cards. Everywhere is clean and shiny for Hindus believe in the cleanliness of body, mind and home. A Rangoli design is created on doorsteps to welcome everybody. Rangoli means a pattern in colour. Traditionally rice flour was used as an offering to the insects, birds and small creatures. Today powder paints, chalk, sand, cereals, seeds or flowers are used to create a rangoli pattern. Delicious food and sweets are prepared. Traditionally Hindus would visit the temple before eating, making merry and visiting friends and relatives. Sometimes friends are met at the temple where there is music, singing and dancing as well as lots of food.
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