Get in the festive spirit by marking Diwali with Azimo. Keep reading to discover more about Diwali, including why it is so important to communities across the globe.
What is Diwali?
Diwali is a festival celebrated all over the world, primarily in India by Hindus, Sikhs and Jains. Diwali, which means the festival of lights, is a celebration representing the victory of light over darkness, i.e. good over evil.
Lakshmi is the Hindu goddess of wealth and prosperity. Many Hindus take part in a Lakshmi Puja on the third day of Diwali, praying for global prosperity and good fortune.
When is Diwali?
Diwali is celebrated for five days every year during the Hindu Lunisolar month of Kartika which occurs between mid-October and mid-November. In 2020, Diwali takes place from November 12th until November 16th.
How do different communities celebrate Diwali?
Hindus commemorate Diwali by celebrating the return of the deities (gods), Rama and Sita, to the Indian city of Ayodhya after their 14-year exile.
Sikhs commemorate the release of Guru Hargobind Singh from prison in 1619; however, Sikhs celebrated the festival before this date. The foundation stone of the Golden Temple at Amritsar, the holiest place in the Sikh world, was laid during Diwali in 1577.
During Diwali, Jains celebrate the moment Lord Mahaveer attained the state of moksha (enlightenment or nirvana).
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Why is Diwali known as the festival of lights?
The word Diwali comes from the Sanskrit word deepavali, which comes from the two words ‘deepa‘ meaning clay lamps and ‘avali‘ signifying arranged in a row.
Diwali marks the time when homes across India are decorated with small oil lamps called diyas or other festive lights. Temples and public institutions, as well as individual households, celebrate by hosting spectacular firework displays, eating traditional Diwali sweets and reciting pujas (prayers).
In addition to symbolising the triumph of good over evil, Diwali commemorates other battles too. The most notable victories Diwali celebrates are the victory of Lord Rama over the demon Ravana and that of Lord Krishna over Narakasura.
In different parts of India, people burn the effigies of both demon kings to re-enact the two victories.
The Hindu Goddess Lakshmi is celebrated all over India during Diwali. The goddess of prosperity and wealth, she is said to have chosen Lord Vishnu, one of the most important deities in Hinduism, to be her husband on the night of Diwali.
Which other countries celebrate Diwali?
During the festivities, it’s common to hear the greeting: “May your life be as colourful, shimmering and magical as the lights of Diwali.”
It’s a sentiment that is shared across the globe by other countries that celebrate this enlightening festival. Although associated mainly with India, Diwali is recognised and is also an official public holiday in:
- Trinidad and Tobago
- Sri Lanka
Notable Diwali celebrations around the world
In Thailand, Diwali is called Lam Kriyongh and is celebrated with the lighting of lamps made from banana leaves. According to tradition, locals fill the lamps with candles, a coin and incense. The lamps are then taken and set afloat on the closest river.
Diwali celebrations in Thailand are also known to be quite understated compared to festivities in India and other countries. However, seeing the country’s rivers illuminated during this time is a sight to behold.
- The UK
Indians make up the second-largest ethnic community in the UK and Diwali is greeted with the appropriate amount of fanfare. In London, revellers pack Trafalgar Square and decorate its fountains with dazzling floating paper lotuses.
While in the East Midlands, the city of Leicester hosts the largest Diwali celebration outside of India. During Diwali, The Golden Mile, the hub of the Indian community in Leicester is awash with beautiful fragrances, colours and sounds.
In neighbouring Nepal, locals call Diwali Tihar. And it’s just as big a celebration as it is in India. The Nepalese worship the goddess Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity and also honour the goddess of wealth, Ganesh.
In Nepal, Tihar is also a time to worship sacred animals such as cows, dogs and crows. Local communities gather to dance, light lamps and exchange gifts door-to-door.
Followers of Diwali in Japan celebrate by going into their gardens and balconies and putting up colourful lanterns and decorating trees. Places of worship in Japan get new wallpaper or a coat of paint as locals hope for new beginnings and prosperity.
In the Tokyo district of Nishi Kasai (commonly Little India), restaurants will serve Diwali-themed menus and shops are decorated with Diwali-style lanterns.
What are the best Diwali sweets?
The chances are that you have seen or even tasted Diwali sweets before. With hundreds of varieties to choose from, it’s no surprise that there are sweets to suit all tastes. With that in mind, Azimo has put together this short but sweet list of Diwali treats:
- Coconut til ladoos
Delicious coconut balls made with sesame seeds and dates.
Thin crepes are made with rice flour, maida (all-purpose flour) and sooji (semolina) and served with a coconut and jaggery (unrefined sugar) filling.
- Mysore paak
This Indian dessert originates from the Mysore Palace. It is a rich mix of desi ghee (clarified butter), gram flour and sugar.
Crumbly cardamom and rose-flavoured Indian shortbread.
- Coconut, pistachio saffron burfi
Soft texture and sweet fudgy milky taste. Served as little squares, burfi give Diwali a unique mix of festive colours and flavours.
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