Diwali, or Deepavali, is India’s biggest and most important holiday of the year. The festival gets its name from the row (avali) of clay lamps (deepa) that we light outside our homes to symbolize the inner light that protects from spiritual darkness. This festival is as important to Hindus as the Christmas holiday is to Christians.
The Diwali festival actually runs for five days, with the main celebrations happening on the third day in most places in India.
Hindus interpret the Diwali story based upon where they live:
- In northern India they celebrate the story of King Rama's return to Ayodhya after he defeated Ravana by lighting rows of clay lamps.
- Southern India celebrates it as the day that Lord Krishna defeated the demon Narakasura.
- In Gujarat, people celebrate the festival by lighting lamps and offering prayers. New year shopping spree, cleaning homes, preparing dishes, wearing new clothes, bursting crackers, meeting people and going places – It’s all about socio-religious-recreation. Deepavali brings in hope, hope brings in faith and when there is faith, there is love in our Hearts – Gujaratis just spread love and when there is love, peace prevails. In all interpretations, one common thread rings true—the festival marks the victory of good over evil.
- Diwali in Gujarat begins with (November 09, 2023) Agyaras, This falls on the 11th day of Aso Vad month of the Gujarati calendar or the month of Ashwin.
- (November 10, 2023) - Vaaghbaras also known as Vaak Baras. On this day people clear their account ledgers (khata) today and not enter into new transactions using new ledgers only after Labh Panchm.
- (November 10, 2023) - Dhanteras. "Dhan" means wealth and "teras" refers to the 13th day of a lunar fortnight on the Hindu calendar. This day is dedicated to celebrating prosperity. Goddess Lakshmi is welcomed into the home and gold is purchased. Laxmi Pujan is performed in Gujarati homes.
- (November 11, 2023) - Kali Chaudas. Goddess Kali and Lord Krishna are believed to have destroyed the demon Narakasura on this day. Kali is worshiped in West Bengal, while demon effigies are burned in Goa.
- (November 12, 2023) - Diwali (Amavasya). This darkest day of the month is the most significant day of the Diwali festival in north and west India. Lakshmi is worshiped on this day, with a special puja performed in the evening.
- (November 14, 2023) - New Year. In north India, Govardhan Puja is celebrated as the day when Lord Krishna defeated Indra, the god of thunder and rain. In Gujarat, It is celebrated as the start of a new year.
- (November 15, 2023) - Bhai Bij. It's dedicated to celebrating sisters, in a similar way that Raksha Bandhan is dedicated to brothers. Brothers and sisters get together and share food, to honor the bond between them.