Diwali this year was celebrated on November 11th.
India is a land of festivals, and Diwali is the biggest among them all. Also known as the Festival of Lights, Diwali is celebrated by Hindus on a massive scale all over the world. It is especially big in India and Nepal.
This article will briefly highlight the legend of Diwali and how it’s celebrated in modern times.
The Legend of Diwali
When Ram, a Hindu God, returned home victorious after sucessfully killing Ravan, the demon king of Lanka (present day Sri Lanka), his homecoming celebration is what today known as Diwali or Deepavali.
Now that was a highly westernised version of any Diwali excerpt ever! Here is the modest story…
Ram was an incarnation of one of the Hindu trinity Gods Vishnu. He was a symbol of virtue and abstinence. Born as the youngest son to the King of Ayodhya Duryodhan, Ram, in his father’s honour, had decided to renounce his claim on the Royal throne. Subsequently he decided to go on an exile of 14 years into the forest. His wife Sita and brother Lakshman accompanied him.
During his exile in the forest, Ravan of Lanka had abducted Sita. Ram as a result had to wage a colossal war against the mighty Ravan with the help of his monkey army, lead by the monkey God Hanuman.
The day of Ram’s victory over Ravan is celebrated as the festival of Dusshehra, which precedes Diwali by 14 days. Later, in honour and celebration of Ram’s glorious return to Ayodhya, the people lit up their homes with diyas (earthen lamps), giving birth to the tradition of decorating houses with lights; thereby also marking the significance of Diwali – a celebration of the victory of light over darkness, good over evil.
Festival of Lights – The Celebration
The above is one legend popular in northern India. Other parts of the country may endear other stories. But the essence of the festival remains more or less the same.
Diwali Celebrations typically last for five days with the first three days being most prominent in many regions of India.
Much of the modern Diwali decoration actually consists of electric lights with a touch of diyas and candles. Besides decorating their houses, people like to display fireworks – a lot of it! This has obviously become a nuisance and many aware people have in the recent years begun campaigning for pollution-free Diwali.
Before the arrival of Diwali, however, people like to clean up their houses. It is done to welcome Lakshmi – the Goddess of wealth & prosperity – into their homes. And this brings us to another aspect of the significance of Diwali – the Hindu New Year!
Yes, Diwali also marks the beginning of a new year for Hindus. At the end of the main day Diwali Hindu businessmen start their books of accounts afresh. This is done in the presence and with the blessings of Lord Ganesh and his wife Lakshmi.
Where to Celebrate Diwali?
It goes without saying that Diwali, much like the Festival of Colours Holi, is best celebrated in the heart of India. And that would be any small- to medium-sized city, just like Varanasi.
When you come over to celebrate Diwali in Varanasi, don’t forget to check-in at International Travellers’ Hostel 😉