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Information on Hindu Festivals
by Mandy Barrow

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Diwali 2013
(also spelt and pronounced Divali)

What is Diwali?

Diwali is the Hindu "festival of lights" which celebrates the New Year. It is India's most important holiday.

Diwali is celebrated by Hindus and Sikhs in Britain and all over the world.

Where is Diwali Celebrated?

Diwali is celebrated around the world.

Diwali is an official holiday in India, Fiji, Guyana, Malaysia, Mayanmar, Mauritius, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobaggo, and Singapore

When is Diwali?

The festival is calculated by the lunar Hindu calendar, it falls on different days each year.

Diwali takes place on the fifteenth day of the Hindu month of Kartika (during October/November in the Gregorian calendar).

3 November 2013

How long does Diwali last?

Diwali is a five day celebration and each have special significance.

Day 1: Dhanteras – the financial year starts.
Day 2: Naraka Chaturdasi – celebrating the vanquishing of Naraka.
Day 3: Amavasya – the worship of Lakshmi – signifies wealth and best wishes to all devotees.
Day 4: Kartika Shudola Padyani – celebrating when Bali took over his new kingdom
D ay 5: Yama Dvitya – the day when sisters worship their brothers

The fourth day of Diwali is the Hindu New Year.

LakshmiWhy is Diwali celebrated?

The festival of lights is held in honour of Lakshmi (pictured right), the Hindu goddess of wealth and prosperity. Hindus pray to Lakshmi to bring them good luck in the coming year.

Who is Lakshmi?

Lakshmi is the goddess of wealth and good fortune.

In the evening, many people hold a small prayer (puja) in their homes. They honour Ganesh (pictured right), the god of wisdom and good luck, the one who removes all obstacles from life. They worship Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and good fortune.

Lights are left burning all night, so that Lakshmi may feel welcomed and enter.


Diwali Story

Rama, Sita, Hanuman und LakshmanaDiwali celebrates the return of Rama and Sita, in the story from the Ramayana. The story shows how good wins over evil.

Here is a brief outline of the story:

Prince Rama and his wife, Sita, are banished from their home in Ayodhya by their father the King. Rama's brother, Lakshmana, goes with them to live in a forest. They are banished for fourteen years.

After many happy years, Sita is kidnapped by the ten-headed demon Ravana. He takes Sita to his island of Lanka. With the help of the monkey warrior, Hanuman, Rama rescues his wife.

The people of Ayodhya light divas (oil lamps) in rows to guide Rama and Sita back from the forest to Ayodhya. On their return Rama is crowned king.

Picture shows Rama, Sita, Hanuman and Lakshmana.

diyasWhat does Diwali mean?

The word Diwali means "rows of lighted lamps"

Why is it called the Festival of Lights?

People light hundreds of small oil lamps (called diyas) They place them around the home, in courtyards and in gardens, as well as on roof-tops and outer walls. This is to commemorate the part of the story that describes oil lamps being placed outside people’s homes to light the way for Rama and Sitas triumphant homecoming to Ayodhya.

The more lamps they light, the more likely it is that Lakshmi will be tempted to visit them. Hindus believe that the goddess brings wealth with her when she visits.

What happens during Diwali?

Gifts are exchanged - often sweets or candles. Homes are decorated and oil lamps are lit. Fireworks are another big part of the celebrations.

"On Diwali we get up early about 6:30am and put on our best clothes. I wear a sari, my daughters wear shalwar kameez (traditional dress) and my husband also dresses traditionally.

The first thing we do is say our prayers and make offerings of fruit and tradtional Indian sweets. Then we go to our parents house to bow down to them and receive their blessings.

Then we go to the temple. After the temple we visit our family and friends to wish them a 'happy Diwali'.

We decorate our homes in bright reds, greens and yellows, and we light as many candles as possible. Diwali is all about filling your home with light and letting go of the gloom and the darkness."

Mendhi Pattern being drawn on a hand

Have a go creating your own Mendhi pattern (online activity)

Rangoli Patterns

People decorate their homes and temples by drawing patterns on the ground outside. They draw these designs with a mixture of rice flour and water. Coloured powder, such as sand, is sometimes used.

Hindus hope the goddess lakshmi will see the beautiful patterns and visit their homes.

Examples of Rangoli patterns

Rangoli patterns

Rangloli colouring

Diwali is also celebrated by Sikhs

The following information was sent to us via email by JKM from Birmingham, UK

" Near the time of Diwali, the Sikh's 6th Guru (Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji, who was unjustly imprisoned for his beliefs by the then Emperor Shah Jahan) was released. When the Emperor had realised his folly, he ordered Guru Ji's release.

Guru Ji stood up for justice by refusing to leave the prison until the 52 kings and princes of India were released aswell, (They were unjustly imprisoned for many years at the same fort for their lands and kingdoms).

Guru Ji helped their release - people were overjoyed because Diwali celebrations had already been underway, so the release of Guru Ji and the kings/princes made it a Diwali celebration for them - Good had overcome evil/light had overcome darkness."

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I teach computers at The Granville School and St. John's Primary School in Sevenoaks Kent.