DEEPAVALI — THE FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS
Interesting Facts About Deepavali
By Hiranmayii Awli Mohanan
Deepavali is the festival of lights considered as an homage to the defeat of darkness with light.
Every year, around October or November, Hindus around the world celebrate Diwali or Deepavali — a festival of light that stretches back 2,500 years. The ancient celebration is linked to multiple stories in religious texts, and it’s impossible to pin point which came first, or how long ago Deepavali started. That said, the common ground that these story share are about the triumph of good over evil. In northern India, a common tale associated with Diwali is about King Rama, one of the incarnations of the god Vishnu. When an evil king in Lanka (which some people associate with Sri Lanka) captures Rama’s wife Sita, he “builds up an army of monkeys” to rescue her. The monkeys built a bridge over from India to Sri Lanka, and they invaded Sri Lanka and freed Sita as well as kill that evil king. As Rama and Sita returned to the north, millions of lights were spread out across the city Ayodhya just to guide their way home, to welcome them. Lighting of lamps has long been one of the traditions during Deepavali.
In the south, Deepavali is popularly linked to a story about the Hindu god Krishna, a different incarnation of Vishnu, in which he frees some 16,000 women from another evil king. In the western state of Gujarat, the New Year coincides with Diwali (there are multiple New Years throughout India) and the festival of light is associated with asking the goddess Lakshmi for prosperity in the coming year. During the festival, many celebrants exchange gifts and coins to toss to prosperity.
Interesting Facts About Deepavali
1. The festival occurs on a no-moon night
Deepavali falls in the Hindu calendar month of Karthik, and to enjoy this Festival of Lights, which occurs on an amavasya (moonless night), firecrackers are lit and lights are placed on the walls and entrances of the houses. This festival commemorates the return of Rama and
Sita to Ayodhya after his fourteen-year long exile. It is believed that to welcome them back, the residents of Ayodhya lit thousands of Diyas (clay lamps). That practice still continues.
2. It celebrates Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth
It is believed that Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth and Prosperity, was born out of the great churning of the milk-sea, known as Samudra Manthan, on Deepavali.
3. It’s the end of the harvest season
The month of Karthik marks the end of the harvest season in India and farmers offer their harvest to goddess Lakshmi for prosperity.
4. It includes the festival of Annakut
Annakut is celebrated on the fourth day of Deepavali which is the 1st day of the new year according to the Hindu calendar. It is a day of offering gratitude for Krishna beneficence with mounds of food in the shape of Govardhan mountain.
5. There are plenty of fireworks and lights
Firecrackers and decorating with lamps and candles are an essential part of the celebration. Over the years, electrical lighting decorations have become one way to make elaborate decorations.
6. A festival across religious lines
While Deepavali is considered predominantly a Hindu festival, the reality is that it is an occasion that is celebrated by several other religions including Jainism, Sikhism and numerous folk religions.
7. A five-day fiesta
While South India celebrates Diwali as a one-day festival, most parts of north and north-west India observe it as a five-day celebration each area with its own significance and each dedicated to a different deity.
It is estimated that Indian households hold a record 11% of the the total gold in the world. A large chunk of it is bought every year as part of the custom or tradition during the festival of Dhanteras, which usually falls two days before Deepavali. On Dhanteras, not only do families buy gold, they also clean and decorate their houses with elaborate rangolis (colourful powder designs usually made in the courtyard of the house) and more recently, fairy lights.