Diwali: Interesting Facts You Should Know
Did you know that Pope John Paul once gave a Diwali speech? And that Bengalis celebrate Goddess Kali during Diwali? Surprised! There are many unknown facts about Diwali you should know. Read on.
By Ashwin Dewan
India is a country of many festivals. And, Diwali or Deepavali is one festival that is celebrated across the country with much fervor, pomp and show. From time immemorial, it is believed that on the day Diwali is celebrated, Lord Ram returned to his people after spending 14 years in exile. During this time, it is believed that Ram fought and defeated Ravana, the demon king. Hence, this festival is seen as a time to celebrate the victory of good over evil.
To mark this auspicious day, people light oil lamps, burst crackers, decorate their homes, perform religious ceremonies, eat sweets and savouries, and spend time with their families. There is an air of festivity and happiness all around.
Goddess Lakshmi or the ‘Goddess of Wealth’ is the primary deity that is worshipped during Diwali.
Diwali ‘The Festival of Lights’
Celebrated with much pomp and splendor, Diwali is popularly known as ‘The Festival of Lights’. Every year, parents and especially children look forward to this festival. Diwali or Deepavali is made of two words ‘Deep’ that means light and ‘Avali’ that means rows. When the two words are combined, it means 'rows of lights'.
When is Diwali celebrated?
A four to five day-long festival, Diwali is celebrated in the month of October or November every year. It is mostly observed on the 15th day of Kartik that is considered the holiest month in the Hindu lunar calendar.
The Five Days Of Diwali
Did you know that the festival of Diwali actually runs for a period of five days with the main celebrations taking place on the third day in several regions across India? Yes, it’s true. Here are some more interesting tidbits of these five days!
- Day 1: The first day is known as Dhanteras. Dhan in Hindi means wealth and Teras refers to the 13th day of lunar fortnight in the Hindu calendar. Dhanteras is a day when people celebrate prosperity, follow a tradition of buying gold and people play cards.
- Day 2: The second day is known as Naraka Chaturdasi when it is believed Goddess Kali destroyed the demon Narakasura.
- Day 3: The third day is known as Amavasya. Goddess Lakshmi is worshipped on this day and many households perform a special puja in the evening.
- Day 4: The fourth day is known for varied reasons across different places in India. In many parts of North India, this day is celebrated as Govardhan Puja or the day when Lord Krishna defeated Indra, the God of thunder and rain.
- Day 5: The fifth day is celebrated as Bhai Dhuj. It is a day when brothers and sisters come together and share food.
However, India is a land of diversity. This means each festival, including Diwali, is associated with different meanings and ways of celebration. For instance, one legend states that Diwali is celebrated to mark the auspicious wedding of Goddess Lakshmi with Lord Vishnu. In this context, let us look at some fun and interesting facts about Diwali that just might surprise you!
6 facts about Diwali we bet you did not know!
- Foundation day of Golden Temple for Sikhs: It is a widely-held belief that Diwali is a festival meant for Hindus. However, this festival is also celebrated by the Sikh and Jain community to mark their historic events. In fact, it was on the day of Diwali that the foundation stone of the Golden Temple was laid in the year 1577.
- West Bengal celebrates Diwali as Kali Puja: In West Bengal, India’s eastern region, people tend to celebrate Goddess Kali during Diwali. During this period, Goddess Kali is worshipped at homes in the form of clay structures and at open pavilions called pandals. In most of these pandals, bhog or offerings in the form of khichdi is served to the people.
- Goa celebrates Lord Krishna on Diwali: In Goa, a predominantly Christian state, Diwali is celebrated with much festivities. There is a small difference, however. Goans celebrate Lord Krishna during Diwali and to commemorate the day when Lord Krishna killed Narakasura. On this day, paper effigies of the demon are burnt and competitions are held all over to see who can sculpt the biggest idol of the demon.
- Dipalika for the Jain community: For Jains, Diwali was the day on which the last of the 24 Thirthankaras, Lord Mahavira shed all his worldly attachments and attained Nirvana. Legend has it and Jains believe that following this divine act, the entire world was enveloped in darkness for some time. People lit up lamps to have a last glimpse of Lord Mahavira and the Gods dispelled the darkness. On Diwali day, devotees congregate at Pavapuri, the birthplace of Lord Mahavir and celebrate.
- A Diwali speech by the Pope: In the year 1999, Pope John Paul, to the delight of Hindus worldwide, performed a Eucharist in an Indian church on a Diwali day. The altar was decorated with Diwali lamps as the Pope, with a tilak on his forehead gave a speech on the festival of lights.
- The reason why people make Rangoli: Come Diwali, both adults and children look forward to one activity – making rangolis. The festival is characterised by a colourful Rangoli (beautiful patterns made using colourful flowers and powders) at the entrance of their houses. This is done to welcome the Gods especially the Goddess of prosperity, Lakshmi who is revered to bring good luck and wealth.
- Diwali celebrations around the world: The English city of Leicester hosts the biggest Diwali celebrations outside India. Apart from India, a number of countries like Guyana, Fiji, Mauritius, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Nepal and Trinidad and Tobago have an official holiday on Diwali.
So, there you go! We bet you were not aware of many of the facts mentioned above. It is time to enjoy and immerse yourself in the festivities of a delightful Diwali. Get ready to celebrate. ParentCircle wishes you all a happy and prosperous Diwali!
Also read: Celebrate Diwali With A Healthy Twist
About the author:
Written by Ashwin Dewan on 4 October 2019.
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