Bord Foren


What is Diwali, the Festival of Lights, and how is it celebrated in India and the diaspora?

Diwali is the most important festival of the year in India — and for Hindus in particular.

It is celebrated across faiths by more than a billion people in the world’s most populous nation and the diaspora. Over five days, people take part in festive gatherings, fireworks displays, feasts and prayer.

Diwali is derived from the word “Deepavali,” which means “a row of lights.” Celebrants light rows of traditional clay oil lamps outside their homes to symbolize the victory of light over darkness and knowledge over ignorance.


Other news
FILE - Israeli soldiers inspect the site of a music festival near the border with the Gaza Strip in southern Israel, Friday. Oct. 13, 2023. Body camera footage has emerged, Saturday, Nov. 4, showing Israeli security forces searching for survivors in the aftermath of the bloody Hamas rampage through an outdoor music concert in southern Israel. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit, File)Israeli rescuers release aftermath video of Hamas attack on music festival, adding chilling detailsFILE - State Sen. Dave Min, D-Irvine, listens as lawmakers discuss a bill before the Senate at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif., Monday, July 10, 2023. A federal judge has blocked California’s ban on gun shows at county fairs, ruling that the state is violating the rights of sellers and would-be buyers by prohibiting transactions for firearms that can be bought at any gun shop. The decision, Monday, Oct. 30, by U.S. District Judge Mark Holcomb halts enforcement of two state laws, both written by Min, who called Holcomb’s injunction “shocking,” and predicted it would be overturned on appeal. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)Federal judge blocks California law banning gun shows at county fairsFILE - Leo Brooks, left, and Andrew Millsaps of Neon Union arrive at the 58th annual Academy of Country Music Awards, May 11, 2023, at the Ford Center in Frisco, Texas. Neon Union will be performing at the Country Bay Music Festival, which is scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 11, and Sunday, Nov. 12, at the historic Miami Marine Stadium, just southeast of downtown on Virginia Key in Biscayne Bay, Fla. (AP Photo/Jeffrey McWhorter, File)Leo Brooks, a Miami native with country roots, returns to South Florida for new music festival

The dates of the festival are based on the Hindu lunar calendar, typically falling in late October or early November.

This year, Diwali begins Nov. 10 and the festival will be observed on Nov. 12.


While Diwali is a major religious festival for Hindus, it is also observed by Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists. The origin story of Diwali varies depending on the region. All these stories have one underlying theme — the victory of good over evil.

In southern India, Diwali celebrates the victory of Lord Krishna’s destruction of the demon Naraka who is said to have imprisoned women and tormented his subjects. In northern India, Diwali honors the triumphant return of Lord Rama, his wife Sita, and brother Lakshmana, from a 14-year exile in the forest.

READ:   Voters elect Democrat Cherelle Parker as Philadelphia’s 100th mayor — and the 1st woman


The festival brings with it a number of unique traditions, which also vary by the region. What all celebrations have in common are the lights, fireworks, feasting, new clothes and praying.

—In southern India, many have an early morning warm oil bath to symbolize bathing in the holy River Ganges as a form of physical and spiritual purification.

—In the north, worshipping the Goddess Lakshmi, who symbolizes wealth and prosperity, is the norm.

Gambling is a popular tradition because of the belief whoever gambled on Diwali night would prosper throughout the year. Many people buy gold on the first day of Diwali, known as Dhanteras — an act they believe will bring them good luck.

Setting off firecrackers is a cherished tradition, as is exchanging sweets and gifts among friends and family. Diwali celebrations typically feature rangoli, which are geometric, floral patterns drawn on the floor using colorful powders.


Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs have their own Diwali stories:

—Jains observe Diwali as the day the Lord Mahavira, the last of the great teachers, attained nirvana, which is liberation from the cycle of birth, death and rebirth.

—Sikhs celebrate Bandi Chhor Divas — a day that overlaps with Diwali — to commemorate the release of Guru Hargobind, a revered figure in the faith, who had been imprisoned for 12 years by the Mughal emperor Jahangir.

—Buddhists observe the day as one when the Hindu Emperor Ashoka, who ruled in the third century B.C., converted to Buddhism.

READ:   Florida law targeting drag shows can’t be enforced for now, appellate court says


Associated Press religion coverage receives support through the AP’s collaboration with The Conversation US, with funding from Lilly Endowment Inc. The AP is solely responsible for this content.