What is Diwali? The annual festival of light is celebrated widely across India and abroad.
Also known as Deepavali, Diwali is a festival celebrated by Hindus in India and around the globe. Diwali, The festival of light is October 19, 2017. Each year, the dates are set by the Hindu lunar calendar usually falling in the month of October or November. Fireworks will be banging in the air, candles, and strings of lights decorated all over houses. The name “Diwali” means rows of lit earthen lamps. Fireworks and lights symbolize the triumph of good over evil or the rise of awareness over ignorance.
To conjure good luck, Hindus worship Lakshmi because she is the goddess of prosperity. Beautiful Rangoli artworks are made in front of the entrance to homes. Lamps are lit as in invitation to bring the goddess into one’s home and wealth into one’s life.
Ok, but the fun doesn’t end there. Let’s get a little background about how “good triumphs over evil” with the story of how Prince Rama returns to his kingdom after exile.
Significance of Ramayana
For Diwali, Hindus celebrate the return of Rama to his palace as told in the fantastic legend of Ramayana. Here’s a brief retelling of this epic tale: Rama, as the loved and adored prince of Ayodhya was set to be crowned king. But when family politics struck – he ended up being banished to 14 years of exile into the jungle. Rama, his wife Sita, and brother Lakshmana left their kingdom to live in the forest. While in exile, his beloved wife Sita got kidnapped by the horrific king of all demons, the 10-headed Ravana! He held Sita captive on the island of Sri Lanka. Then there was a mission to save her from his evils. That’s when the heroic monkey-man God Hanuman comes in.
Celebration of Rama’s Return
Hanuman’s strength lies in his loyalty to Rama and Sita. He finds the missing princess and eventually, his efforts are able to rescue the beloved Sita. Having gone through so much strife, Rama is even MORE loved and revered by the people of his kingdom. His return to Ayodhya with Sita is symbolic of the triumph of good over evil (the nasty demons). Hence, why Diwali is a celebration of the return of Rama.
Diwali festival is during the time of year when our days get darker as the season changes. Bringing light into these days is a way to mark a new beginning. Every family wants to be blessed by this good fortune. A great time to honor the pure heart as Rama portrays, despite the gigantic challenges life has to offer. Lord Rama is still a hero today for his outstanding character and display of equanimity in the face of hardship. This is why many celebrate Diwali with so much enthusiasm, watching and listening to the great epic of Ramayana time and time again.
How to Celebrate Diwali at Home
Last year, I went to visit The Seattle Center for a Diwali festival. We watched a traditional Indian dance performance. Tasted delicious Indian Chai, stood in line for a piece of roti (bread) and saw rangoli designs in the making. Indulged in Prashad (free food) and I even met Lord Hanuman himself (see below).
The performance in Seattle was amazing, the dancers did an excellent job in retelling the epic tale of Ramayana. An excellent way to celebrate Diwali is with this truly timeless performance. Be sure to bring your loved ones. Family-time is a central theme throughout this festival.
In India, sons, aunties, and cousins often travel by train or plane to return to their family homes to enjoy Diwali with the entire extended family. Gifts are exchanged (see shopping guide here ). People, especially women, delight in buying a new special outfit just for the occasion. When returning home one might find emblems of red footprints leading to into the house, illuminated by candles. Very inviting, indeed. Footprints are one of the ways to invite wealth and prosperity into the home.
Ways to Attract Goddess Lakshmi
Step 1: Clean your home, Goddess Lakshmi doesn’t want to visit a cluttered place! Sometimes families also purify their house by sprinkling holy water from river Ganga.
Step 2: Decorate! Use strings of white lights, oil lamps, candles, and set up a rangoli design outside your house’s entrance.
Step 3: Perform puja to manifest the Goddess and to bless everyone in the home. Heres’s how to do a full traditional ceremony (YouTube video) or a few ideas of how to manifest Shri Lakshmi here:
Art and Symbolism of Diwali
Brightly colored designs are traditionally set-up on the doorstep outside the home or on the path leading inside. Designs are usually circular and made out of colored rice or sand, and flowers, leaves, and feathers.
Lamps placed into the design illuminate the bright colors. There are many different designs and sometimes the shape can be square or octagonal too. Symbols may be of peacocks, eagle, god or icon, or landscapes as well. Significant herbs from puja can be added such as turmeric or kumkum.
Symbols associated with Shri Lakshmi and Diwali include:
- Om symbol
There are so many wonderful ways to celebrate this festival, enjoying to good energy, and conjuring up some good luck, wealth, and prosperity for yourself and family!