Definition - What does Diwali mean?

Diwali is a festival that celebrates India's biggest holiday of the year, observed for five days in October or November, depending on the lunar calendar. Also spelled Dipawali or Deepavali, the name translates as “row of clay lamps," which refers to the lamps that Indians light to symbolize the inner light that provides protection from spiritual darkness. During the festival, the practice of yoga focuses on this inner light.

Yogapedia explains Diwali

The holiday originated as a harvest festival at the end of the Hindu lunar month of Ashvin and the beginning of the month of Kartika. To some, Diwali represents the celebration of the marriage of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, to Lord Vishnu, and Lakshmi's wanders throughout Earth looking for homes that will invite her. For that reason, people light lamps and open their doors and windows to welcome her in.

To Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists, the Diwali holiday celebrates different events, but they all symbolize the victory of good (light) over evil (darkness). The celebrations also vary regionally within India and within the same religious tradition.

The typical Hindu celebration includes:

  • Day 1 – People clean their homes and shop for gold or kitchen implements.
  • Day 2 – Homes are decorated with clay lamps (diyas) and floors are decorated in patterns with colored sand or powder.
  • Day 3 – The main festival day when families gather for prayer, feasts and fireworks.
  • Day 4 – Friends and relatives mark this first day of the new year by visiting and exchanging gifts.
  • Day 5 – Brothers visit their married sisters and celebrate with a lavish meal.

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