Contrary to the general belief, Diwali is not just a Hindu festival. It is a festival also celebrated by Jains, and Sikhs and some Buddhists.
Diwali (or Divali) comes from the Sanskrit word Deepavali which literally means “series of lights”. Diwali is also known as dipotsava “festival of lights”.
Diwali dates back to ancient times in India, as a festival after the summer harvest in the Hindu calendar month of Kartika. The Persian traveler and historian Al Biruni, in his 11th century memoir on India, wrote Deepavali being celebrated by Hindus on New Moon day of the month of Kartika.
- Diwali falls on a no moon night. To honor the homecoming of lord Ram people illuminated oil lamps. On this day lord Ram returned to Ayodhya, along with his wife and brother. 20 days ago and on the eve of Dussehra, lord Ram had killed demon Ravan.
- According to Mahabharata, on the eve of Diwali the Pandavs returned after spending 12 years of Vanvas (residing in a forest) and one year of Agyatavas (disguise).
- On the night of Diwali goddess Lakshmi chose lord Vishnu as her husband and they were married.
- Many Hindus in Odisha and West Bengal, worship goddess Kali, instead of goddess Lakshmi, and call the festival Kali Puja.
- In Braj and north central regions of India people mark Mount Govardhan, and celebrate legends about Lord Krishna. In other regions, the feast of Govardhan Puja (or Annakoot) is celebrated, with 56 or 108 different cuisines prepared, offered to Krishna, then shared and celebrated by the local community.
- In West and certain Northern parts of India, the festival of Diwali marks the start of a new Hindu year.
On this day Guru Har Gobind freed himself and some Hindu kings from the Gwalior fort, from the prison of Mughal emperor Jahangir and arrived at Golden temple in Amritsar. The Sikhs celebrate Diwali as Bandi Choor Diwas.
Lord Mahavir attained Nirvana on this day at Pavapuri on 15th October 527 BCE. Jains celebrate Diwali as a day of remembering lord Mahavir. On Diwali morning, Nirvan Ladoo is offered after praying to lord Mahavir in all Jain temples all across the world.
The Newar people in Nepal, who are Buddhist and revere various deities in the Vajrayana tradition, celebrate the festival by worshiping Lakshmi. The Newar Buddhists in Nepalese valleys celebrate the Diwali festival over five days, in the same way and on the same days as the Hindu Diwali-Tihar festival.
A prayer for Diwali
Shanti Mantra (Mantra of peace). Brihadaranyaka Upanishads (1.3.28).
My Diwali message:
- Light the lamp of love in your heart and stop hating people who do not agree with you.
- Light the lamp of knowledge in your home to dispel the darkness that surrounds you and your family.
- Light the lamp of compassion in your life and give something (howsoever small) to the impoverished.