Diwali (also known as Deepavali, which means “a row of lights”) is the Hindu festival of lights celebrated every year on the darkest, new moon night of the lunar month known as Kartika (this generally occurs at some point between mid-October mid-November).
Diwali is one the largest and most popular festivals within Hinduism, cutting across linguistic, regional, and theological lines. While there are several different narratives associated with Diwali, it mainly signifies the victory of light over darkness, good over evil, knowledge over ignorance, and hope over despair. Hindus typically celebrate Diwali by lighting traditional oil lamps or candles, and using lights to adorn homes, temples, and other buildings in the community. On Diwali night, people generally dress up in new or festive clothes, light diyas (lamps and candles) inside and outside their home, participate in puja (worship), and enjoy meals with family and friends. Fireworks and mitthai (sweets) have also become mainstays of the celebration, and some families exchange gifts as well.
Some of the narratives and sacred legends that are evoked at Diwali include:
- The triumphant return of Sri Rama, the avatar of Vishnu in the form of a righteous king, with his wife Sita Devi, to the kingdom of Ayodhya.
- The slaying of the demon Naraka by the avatar Sri Krishna.
- The charming childhood activities of Sri Krishna, particularly with his mother Yashoda Mayi.
- The victory of the divine feminine, particularly the goddess Lakshmi Devi, over misfortune and adversity.
In addition to the Hindu significance of Diwali, Jains also celebrate Diwali to mark the attainment of moksha (spiritual liberation) by Mahavira, and Sikhs celebrate Diwali to commemorate the release of Guru Hargobind from a Mughal prison. Newar Buddhists also celebrate Diwali by worshipping the goddess Lakshmi.
Our Diwali at the Chapel celebration marks the spiritual significance of this day through worship and reflection, devotional music and dance, and the coming together of community.