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Understanding Diwali, the Festival of Lights

Learn about the cultural significance, rituals, and festivities of this special day for Hindus.

By: THURSD. | 01-11-2023 | 12 min read
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Diwali

Diwali illuminates both homes and hearts, melding tradition with today's zest. Diwali's vibrancy paints the world as autumn's crispness fills the air. As the date nears, excitement peaks, with every moment of the five-day fiesta awash in color, light, and blossoms. Ever wondered, "What is Diwali?" Let's try to understand its luminous essence below.

What Is Diwali?

An ancient Hindu festival, Diwali, or Deepavali, signifies the triumph of light over darkness, good over evil, and hope over despair. Revered by millions, when asked, "When is Diwali?" most would speak of the night filled with twinkling diyas, the explosion of fireworks, and homes adorned with a kaleidoscope of rangoli designs.

Yet this is only a fragment of the Diwali week, a five-day fiesta with each day's significance. Every aspect of this festival holds significance, from savory delights to the burst of firecrackers.

 

Diwali decoration with flower
Picture by @honey_fab_studio

 

Importance of the Festival of Lights

At its core, Diwali embodies the luminous spirit of human resilience and hope. As legends narrate tales of Lord Rama's return to Ayodhya, people commemorate this day by illuminating their surroundings with diyas. Diwali is a symbolic representation of banishing darkness from one's life, literally and metaphorically. Every diya (lamp) lit during this festival eradicates a fragment of ignorance, paving the way for enlightenment.

The beauty of the Festival of Lights isn't limited to lights alone. Imagine marigold torans, their fiery oranges and yellow reflecting the glow of lamps, or rose petals enhancing the intricate designs of rangoli. As the Diwali Padwa date approaches, one can't help but admire the harmonious marriage of traditions with nature's gleaming beauties!

 

Diwali decoration with light and diyas
Picture by @vaishu___999

 

Important Diwali Dates

Diwali, an enchanting festival celebrated by millions, is often marked by the buzz of preparations weeks in advance. For those wondering, "When is Diwali?" the dates typically depend on the lunar calendar. 

Diwali Dates Table

This five-day celebration is observed every year during the early autumn post-summer harvest on the night of Amavasya (new moon), with the date marked as the darkest night according to the Hindu calendar being the primary Diwali celebration day. 

Kickstarting the Diwali week is Dhanteras, a day synonymous with prosperity. Scheduled a few days before the primary Diwali date, this day celebrates wealth and prosperity. Traditionally, precious metals are bought, signifying the welcoming of wealth.

Adorning doorways with golden marigolds and shimmering lights makes it an unforgettable start, laying the golden floral foundation of the festival.

Choti Diwali is essentially the eve of the grand celebration. This prelude to the main Diwali is often about intimate celebrations, muted lights, and fragrant blossoms. Imagine soft petals underfoot as you light up diyas, each flame reflecting the promise of the main event. 

This day is all about embracing the quiet beauty before the vibrant burst, a subtle reminder that every blossom is vital in the grand bouquet of Diwali Week.

The pinnacle of the five days of Diwali is undoubtedly the night of Diwali itself, an evening awash with lights and floral splendor. Diwali will see homes brightly lit, with the heart of the celebration being the Lakshmi Puja. 

Goddess Lakshmi is believed to adore lotuses, thus signifying the importance of floral decoration on this special day. With the glow of the diyas, this grand night becomes even more mesmerizing with the unique fragrance of flowers flowing through homes decorated to welcome Goddess Lakshmi.

The Padwa day, following the main Diwali, is a jewel waiting to be discovered. Commemorating the love between husband and wives, this day is also celebrated as Bali-pratipada, commemorating the victory of Lord Vishnu (Vamana Avtar) over the demon-king Bali. However, looking deep into the traditions reveals the manifold purposes of this festival, carrying its importance equally for individuals in a unique way.

Concluding the 5 days of Diwali is Bhai Dhooj, a day that venerates the bond between siblings. Reminiscent of Raksha Bandhan, siblings exchange gifts and blessings, with sisters praying and wishing their brothers prosperity and longevity.

 

Diwali celebration with family
Picture by @rathorekavita

 

Origins and History of Diwali

With its radiance and mesmerizing hues, Diwali can be likened to a flourishing garden in full bloom. While its celebratory essence remains consistent, its roots are intertwined with myriad tales and traditions.

The Ramayana Connection: The Blossoming Welcome for Lord Rama

In essence, the glorious welcome of Lord Rama to Ayodhya after 14 years of exile and the victorious battle against the demon king Ravana has been celebrated on this specific eve. 

As the legend goes, it was a night of a new moon, making it the darkest night of the year. 

To combat this darkness and guide their prince home, the residents illuminated the city with countless diyas, their flames dancing in joy. While the festival is celebrated as a part of various cultures and traditions and in different forms, this connection eventually prevails out of the rest, marking the festival celebration's prominence.

 

Lord Rama
Hindu god Lord Rama. Picture by @siya.ram9351

 

Other Historical and Mythological Stories

Beyond Ramayana, several tales are finding their association with this 5-day Festival of Lights, with each day, from Dhanteras to Bhai Dhooj, having its own story.

For instance, on the day of Diwali - Padwa, the bond between a newlywed bride and her husband is celebrated. Legend has it that on this day, Goddess Parvati played dice with her husband, Lord Shiva, and decreed that anyone who gambled would prosper throughout the ensuing year. 

Another tale talks about the Demon-king Bali, who Lord Vishnu pushed to the underworld (Vamana avatar). His return to Earth, albeit brief, is celebrated with much pomp and grandeur on the day of Padwa.

For the Jains, Diwali is a commemoration of Lord Mahavira attaining Nirvana. For Sikhs, it marks the release of Guru Hargobind Ji from imprisonment. 

Each tale, distinct in its characters and storyline, underscores the recurring theme of the triumph of light over darkness, of righteousness over deceit.

The Traditions and Rituals of Diwali With Floral Twists

Crafted with love, tradition, and innate respect for nature and life, Diwali is a symphony of colors, fragrances, and textures that unfold over the 5 days of Diwali. Whether you're exploring when Diwali is, diving into its profound tales, or merely basking in its beauty, remember, every petal and every diya is a story waiting to be told.

The Tradition of Doorway Torans: Blending Greenery and Blossoms

The entrance of every home during Diwali is graced by 'Torans' - decorative hangings that usually combine mango leaves and marigold flowers. As homes infuse contemporary styles, torans have evolved to incorporate an array of blooms such as roses, lilies, and orchids. Not just an ornament, these floral gates are believed to invite Goddess Lakshmi into one's abode.

 

Diwali with floral twists
Diwali Doorway Torans decorations. Photo by @itsnotkiran

 

Rangoli: Integrating Petals and Colors

No Diwali decoration is complete without the artistry of Rangoli. While traditionally crafted with colored powders, the recent trend, especially at Diwali inspirations, is to accentuate these designs with flower petals. Whether the radiant sun pattern using marigolds and roses or the intricate peacock designs brought alive with blue orchids, the fusion of color and floral aroma intensifies and echoes the fleeting beauty of life and joy of the Diwali festival.

 

Diwali Rangoli at home
Diwali rangoli. Photo by @linasrangoli

 

Floral Diyas: A New Trend With Floating Blooms

If you've ever wondered how to make the tradition of lighting diyas more enchanting, here's a tip for Diwali: floating floral diyas! Instead of the regular clay diyas, consider a bowl of water illuminated by floating candles and surrounded by buoyant flowers like roses, lotuses, or jasmine. As the candles shimmer, they cast a glow on the petals, creating a mesmerizing reflection that perfectly encapsulates the festival's spirit.

 

Diyas decoration on diwali
Picture by @lifebeyond9to5

 

Prayers, Poojas, and Offerings

Of course, Diwali's heart beats in its religious fervor. Temples and homes resonate with chants, while altars are adorned with flowers. Each day carries a unique significance in terms of prayers and pooja that varies per tradition and customs. 

Families and near and dear ones unite with gifts and happiness for their loved ones to make the celebrations lively and feel the festival of 'Diwali' to the fullest. It's common to have frequent guest visits from neighbors, friends, and relatives offering sweets and best wishes to each other on the auspicious festive occasion.

 

Diwali Prayers with family
Prayers and Poojas Picture by @dlfmallofindia

 

Bursting of Firecrackers

Traditionally, Diwali is characterized by the bursting of firecrackers, which holds a deep significance besides being a celebratory gesture. On the Diwali date, streets and courtyards are often lined with firecrackers and marigolds, presenting a vivid display of hues and sounds. 

The synergy between flowers and firecrackers is quite poetic - while firecrackers represent ephemeral, fleeting moments of brilliance, flowers signify the beauty of life and nature's persistence. One could argue that the fragrant bursts from roses and lilies rival the enchanting spectacle of firecrackers in the sky.

Exchange of Gifts and Sweets

Exchanging gifts and sweets during Diwali is an age-old tradition that adds sweetness to relationships and bonds; it symbolizes love and affection. As the dates for Diwali approach, households get busy preparing traditional sweets and delicacies. 

Just as nature presents us with flowers, Diwali allows us to share tokens of love, appreciation, and joy. The essence of this practice goes beyond materialism; it's about spreading happiness and forging stronger connections.

Eco-Friendly Diwali: The New Trend

While Diwali has always been celebrated with much pomp and splendor, a transformative wave sweeping across the celebrations takes it to new dimensions. In the embrace of today, eco-consciousness is at the heart of Diwali celebrations. With the growing understanding of our environmental responsibilities, many are seeking innovative, green ways to celebrate. Let's dive into the eco-friendly hues of Diwali.

 

Eco friendly diwali
Picture by @cherrynair

 

The Rise of Biodegradable Floral Decor

The mesmerizing glint of the Diwali week is even more enchanting when adorned with nature's beautiful flowers. These, in particular, have been an integral part of the Hindu festivities. With the Diwali date nearing, there's an enthusiastic shift towards biodegradable floral decorations. 

The market is now awash with floral diyas, where blooms float alongside lighted wicks, creating a dreamy and eco-friendly spectacle. Then there's the trend of using flowers in Rangoli designs, which has been an age-old practice but is not gaining renewed popularity. The emphasis is on choosing local and seasonal flowers, reducing the carbon footprint of transporting exotic flowers. 

By choosing these offerings, you're not only celebrating the Festival of Lights but also cherishing the Earth that nurtures us, thus, etching a mark of responsibility towards our planet.

Green Alternatives to Firecrackers

For many, the mention of Diwali instantly conjures the sights and sounds of dazzling firecrackers lighting the night sky. But with the dawn of Diwali, a newer, greener trend is emerging.

While the fireworks sparkle is undeniably alluring, the environmental and health costs are hefty. The smoke and residue from these pyrotechnics contribute to air pollution and can harm flora and fauna. But fret not, for the spirit of Diwali isn't dimmed. Many communities now host laser light shows, creating a spectacle as grand as any firework display.

Another enchanting alternative gaining momentum is the use of LED-lit kites or balloons. These eco-friendly replacements ensure that the sky is still illuminated without cacophony and pollution.

Moreover, several communities have started innovative traditions such as 'flower fireworks.' As night falls, participants gather and toss handfuls of vibrant flower petals in the air, mimicking the explosion of colors that firecrackers produce. The sight of petals shimmering under the Diwali lights provides a breathtaking visual without the accompanying noise or environmental damage.

Diwali Foods: A Culinary Delight

The vibrant Festival of Lights is as much a gastronomic celebration as a visual one. From the first day to the concluding festivities, the 5 days of Diwali are replete with mouthwatering delicacies; the scents of clarified butter, sugar, and fragrant spices envelope the Indian streets.

 

Diwali a gastronomic celebration
Picture by @smalltown_smarttalk

 

Traditional Sweets and Delicacies

Diwali carries a kaleidoscope of traditional sweets, each echoing stories of regions, traditions, and familial love. Sweets like Gulab Jamun, syrup-soaked, soft orbs, often find a delicate rose essence infusing them with a floral touch. Barfi, a dense milk-based sweet, Pedas and Laddoos, spherical treats made from various ingredients, are other staples. Apart from this, the tradition of offering 'Kheer,' made of rice, milk, and various other ingredients, is also popular and, with its milky essence, tempting enough to even the most disciplined ones. And the list is endless!

Safety Precautions

As Diwali approaches, the excitement and anticipation of the Diwali week—a series of luminous celebrations spanning the five days of Diwali—sweeps over households globally. Every aspect of Diwali screams splendor, from the shimmering lights of diyas to the aromatic presence of floral decorations. But amid this rapturous joy, safety remains paramount. 

As we approach Diwali and the primary day of Diwali, neighborhoods will be filled with vibrant pyrotechnics displays. However, revelers should remember a few key points:

By integrating these safety measures, you can guarantee that unforeseen accidents do not overshadow the sounds of joy.

Embracing the True Spirit of Diwali

Diwali invites us to celebrate and internalize the values and meanings behind this festival, imbibing the spirit of unity, love, and gratitude. Amid the sparkle of the five days, remembering what makes this festival special is essential - the shared joy, mutual respect, and the hope it brings into our lives.

This Diwali, the wishes we extend are not just for a day of joy but a lifetime of happiness. 

"May your life be as vibrant as the rangolis that adorn your doorways, and as fragrant as the fresh blossoms that hang in your homes. As you light the diyas this year, may every flicker reflect a dream, a hope, a memory."

As the festival unfolds, let's pledge to celebrate responsibly, ensuring our festivities don't harm our environment or fellow beings.

In the heartwarming spirit of Diwali week, here's wishing everyone a radiant, joyous, and safe celebration. Let the essence of the festival guide you, and may your life bloom like the most exquisite flower in the garden of existence.

 

Header Image by @pashini_, and feature image by @bloom._.flowerjewellery

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