Diwali – the festival of lights

Lanterns at Diwali festival

Probably one of India’s most famous festivals is the Diwali Festival of Lights. Celebrated all over India and in Indian communities throughout the world, the word Diwali in fact means ‘rows of lit lamps’, which should give you a clue as to what this festival is all about. Signifying the triumph of good over evil, the lamps commemorate the return of Lord Rama, along with Sita and Lakshmana from his 14 year exile and battle against the demon-king Ravana. According to the story, the people of Rama celebrated his return by setting off firecrackers and illuminating the kingdom with small earthen lamps, a tradition which continues today.

Taking place between October and November (this year’s start date is the 26th of October) Diwali holds such special significance in India that many businesses count the first day of Diwali as the start of their financial year. With homes decorated, lamps ablaze, firecrackers going off all over the place and lights hanging from just about every corner, it truly is a festive time to visit the sub-continent. Don’t forget the significance of sweets, which makes this festival a favourite with children – make sure you’ve got a pocketful of sweets to share with passersby.

The Times of India sums up the cultural and religious significance of this holiday: “Regardless of the mythological explanation one prefers, what the festival of lights really stands for today is a reaffirmation of hope, a renewed commitment to friendship and goodwill, and a religiously sanctioned celebration of the simple … joys of life.” (Times of India editorial)

Take a trip to India this Diwali and join in this celebration of life and light.


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