Why Is Diwali Celebrated?

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Diwali is a popular five-day celebration for many Indians, namely Hindus, Jains, Sikhs and certain Buddhists. Diwali’s spiritual significance has numerous interpretations due to the vast diversity of beliefs and religions in India. The festival is ultimately considered a happy occasion marked by people buying gifts for themselves and their family members. Lastly, Diwali is synonymous with multiple ancient legends and famous stories.

Diwali is directly linked to the Ramayana — one of the oldest and most significant narratives in Hinduism. Lord Rama, an avatar of the Hindu creator god Vishnu, is a pivotal figure in the Ramayana alongside his wife Sita and the 10-headed demon king Ravana. According to legend, Ravana kidnaps Sita and Rama embarks on a journey to rescue her. Rama completes his quest with heaven’s aid and returns to the city of Ayodhya with Sita. They’re welcomed by a magnificent festival of lights that serves as the first official Diwali celebration. 

But this is just one interpretation of the holiday; Kali, the Goddess of Death, receives tributes in Bengal while Krishna, Vishnu’s eighth avatar, is acknowledged in South India. Others celebrate the birth of Lakshmi, the Goddess of Fortune and Vishnu’s wife.

What Are the Five Days of Diwali?

Dhanteras, the first day of Diwali, is dedicated to housekeeping and purchasing small gifts. Next is Naraka Chaturdasi (aka Choti Diwali), which is a day of repentance and prayer. Lakshmi Puja is the third day of Diwali, where people adorn their homes and workplaces with candles, lamps (called “diyas”), and small electric lights.

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Govardhan Puja (aka Padva) is another day of worship; people create and pray to effigies of the Govardhan Mountain — which has ties to Krishna another deity named Indra. Bhai Dooj is the final day of Diwali wherein brothers and sisters exchange gifts.

The dates of the Diwali celebration change each year on the Gregorian calendar. Diwali was observed on October 23 in 2014, on November 11 in 2015 and on October 30 in 2016. Fireworks are typically part of the festivities, though certain states may impose restrictions this year due to COVID-19 concerns.