YONKERS. NY — November 14, 2020 — Diwali is the Indian “festival of lights”—a holiday that celebrates the triumph of good over evil. This year, Diwali will be celebrated on November 14. Though technically religious, it’s also become a cultural event in North America that’s celebrated with sweets and special foods.
Diwali (also called Divali or Deepavali) is a “festival of lights” that celebrates the triumph of light over dark and good over evil, and the blessings of victory, freedom, and enlightenment. The name comes from Sanksrit dipavali, meaning “row of lights.” On the night of Diwali, celebrants light dozens of candles and clay lamps (called diyas), placing them throughout their homes and in the streets to light up the dark night.
In most of India, Diwali consists of a five-day celebration that peaks on the third day with the main celebration of Diwali. In other places where Diwali occurs, usually only the main day is celebrated.
Diwali is primarily celebrated by followers of the Hindu, Sikh, and Jain faiths. However, the holiday is celebrated throughout India, Singapore, and several other South Asian countries as a national holiday, meaning that people outside these religions may participate in Diwali celebrations, too. Hindu, Sikh, and Jain communities in the United Kingdom, United States, Australia, and elsewhere around the globe also regularly celebrate Diwali.
Diwali occurs annually in autumn (or spring, in the southern hemisphere), during the Hindu month of Kartik. (To put it in Western terms, Kartik begins around mid-October and ends in mid-November.) Specifically, Diwali occurs on the darkest day of the lunar month, which is the day of the new Moon.
The Indian-American doctor and self-help guru Deepak Chopra has also wished his followers a Happy Diwali, writing “may the flame of awareness lighten up your path & guide your #evolution,” and also tweeting: “may the ever pervading lamp of awareness continue to brighten & guide your life.”
Diwali is a 5-day festival, but the main day of celebration is day 3—also known as Lakshmi Puja.
The five days of Diwali are as follows:
- Dhanteras — On the first day of Diwali, people will perform rituals called puja, or pooja, and place tea lights around the balconies or entryways of homes.
- Narak Chaturdashi — Different regions celebrate this day in various ways, but many people will spend time at home and exchange sweets with family or friends.
- Lakshmi Puja — The main celebration is believed to be the most auspicious day to worship the goddess Lakshmi. Families will dress up and gather to offer prayers, light fireworks, share meals, and more.
- Govardhan Puja — This day is associated with Lord Krishna and the Gujarati new year. A mountain of food offerings are prepared for puja.
- Bhaiya Dooj — The last day is dedicated to celebrating the sibling bond. Traditionally, brothers will visit and bring gifts to their sisters, who honor them with special rituals and sweets.
This year, the biggest day of the celebration—Lakshmi Puja day—falls on Saturday November 14. Although the exact date changes every year, it is always held on the night of the new moon preceding the Hindu month of Kartika, according to Shipman, and on this day, the Hindus will dress in new clothes and host worship services to Lakshmi and Lord Ganesha. This puja often involves preparing a clean and sacred space, offering prayers to invoke the deity, plus meditative prayers, offerings like sweets, songs, and more.