What is Diwali?
Diwali, also known as Deepavali, is one of the most significant festivals in Indian culture. It’s a Hindu festival, but also celebrated by Jains, Sikhs, and some Buddhists. Known as the “Festival of Lights,” it symbolizes the spiritual “victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance.”
Diwali is a five-day festival that usually takes place between mid-October and mid-November, depending on the lunar calendar. Each day of Diwali has its own associated traditions, but the festival is most famous for the millions of lights— in the form of oil lamps, candles, and fireworks— that are lit on the night of the new moon to create a spectacular display.
The specific narratives and traditions associated with Diwali can vary greatly depending on regional and cultural differences. Some celebrate it in honor of the return of Lord Rama, his wife Sita and his brother Lakshmana from exile, as told in the Hindu epic Ramayana. Others associate it with the goddess of wealth and prosperity, Lakshmi.
Traditions often include cleaning and decorating homes, lighting lamps and candles inside and outside of homes, exchanging gifts, feasting on sweets and snacks, and gathering with family and community members. It’s a time for renewal and rejoicing.
Where is it Celebrated?
India – As the country with the largest Hindu population, Diwali is widely celebrated across all regions of India, although customs and traditions can vary significantly between different areas.
Nepal – Known as Tihar or Swanti, it is a significant festival in Nepal and shares many similarities with Diwali celebrations in India.
Sri Lanka – This country has a significant Hindu Tamil population who celebrate Diwali.
Malaysia – Diwali is a public holiday in Malaysia and is celebrated by the country’s significant Indian population.
Singapore – Diwali is a public holiday in Singapore, which has a sizeable Indian-origin population.
Fiji – With a significant Indo-Fijian population, Diwali is an important festival and a public holiday in Fiji.
Mauritius – With a majority Hindu population, Diwali is a major festival in Mauritius.
Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Suriname – These countries have significant populations of Indo-Caribbean people, and Diwali is a public holiday there.
Pakistan and Bangladesh – While these countries are predominantly Muslim, their Hindu and Sikh minorities do observe Diwali.
In recent years, Diwali has been celebrated in an increasing number of locations around the world, and it has gained a significant presence in multicultural celebrations in countries with large Indian diaspora populations such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, and Canada.