Diwali 2018: the what, the how and the origins of the Festival of Lights

7 November 2018 | Rajiv Khemlani | About a 3 minute read

From 5th to 9th November 2018, people all over the world are celebrating Diwali. If you’re curious to learn more about the Festival of Lights, the origins and how it is celebrated today, read ahead!


The significance of Diwali

Diwali, or Deepavali, is one of the biggest (if not the biggest) festival in Hindu culture. The word itself derives from Sanskrit and literally means a “row of lights” and is a conjugation of the words ‘deepa’ and ‘vali’ which mean clay lamp and an array. The festival can last four to five continuous days (this year it’s five) – the third day is celebrated as the main Diwali festival, or “Festival of Lights”. This day also coincides with the darkest day of month in the Hindu lunisolar calendar.

Although known as a predominantly Hindu festival, Diwali is also celebrated by Jains, Sikhs and Newar Buddhists. However, the day marks different historical events and stories for all these religions.


The origins of Diwali

The Diwali festival in India has had a deep significance since ancient times. For Sikhs, Diwali marks the return to Amritsar of the sixth guru, Shri Hargobind Ji, after he set free 52 Hindu kings imprisoned in Fort Gwalior by defeating Emperor Jahangir.

According to Vedic culture, the message of Diwali is to eradicate the world from darkness and lead it towards the self-illuminated light within. One of the most well-known traditions of Diwali is associated with the Hindu epic of Ramayana. This tradition celebrates the arrival of Prince Rama to his hometown of Ayodhya after defeating the King of Demons. Legend has it that in celebration of his return from a 14-year exile, the Kingdom of Ayodhya illuminated all the walls and roofs of the town with candles and lamps to help Rama find his way back home.


The contemporary take on Diwali

During Diwali it is still traditional to illuminate houses and streets with candles or traditional ‘diyas’.  However, as with other religious festivities, Diwali has become commercialised and provides a boost for the economy of India.

Diwali is also considered an auspicious day for any personal or professional endeavours, such as starting a business, buying a new house or making any major investment. Before the eve of Diwali, people buy new clothes, utensils, gold coins and jewellery. All kinds of companies offer heavy discounts on their prospects during the festive season and it is common for family and friends to exchange gifts.

The commercialisation hasn’t affected the spirit of Diwali. Rather, it has helped Diwali gain global recognition. In today’s fast-paced world, it’s inspiring to celebrate a holiday such as Diwali that looks toward new hopes, dreams and aspirations. It signifies happiness with practices that have participants letting go of the negativity and shining a light on the optimism of tomorrow. It’s something our world needs more of!

Seeing that passion and positivity is contagious. Let’s keep this positivity all year long, and use this passion to drive our communities and work.


May this Diwali illuminate your life with happiness and good health.


Warm Diwali wishes for you and your family!

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