The history of Diwali - KHGI-TV/KWNB-TV/KHGI-CD-Grand Island, Kearney, Hastings

The history of Diwali

Diwali or Deepawali is perhaps the most cherished and popular festival of India. Deepawali means a ‘row of lights' and this festival of lights symbolizes the victory of light over darkness.

Diwali falls in the Hindu calendar month Kartik (sometime between the end of October and the middle of November) on Amavasya, the darkest night when the moon is not visible. On this lunar New Year, thousands of earthen oil lamps (called "diyas") shine through the darkness, making Diwali a brilliant and enticing festival.

Legend has it that on this day Lord Ram returned to his kingdom Ayodhya after 14 years in exile and after slaying the demon king Ravana. Celebrating the victory of good over evil, the people of Ayodhya welcomed their future king back joyously to a city aglow with twinkling lamps. Yet another myth has it that on this day Lord Krishna killed the demon Narakasura and freed the people from his tyrannical rule.

Peoples across India have their unique ways of bringing in the New Year. In some states, Diwali is celebrated with the worship of Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth and a manifestation of the all-powerful female force -- Shakti. There is a belief that the Goddess will enter only those houses that are scrubbed clean, decorated and lit with rows of oil lamps (now sharing space with creative candles and electric lights). Traditionally Lord Ganesha is also worshipped along with Goddess Lakshmi. Ganesha is the God of good beginnings and the remover of all obstacles. Together they ensure a year of wealth and prosperity, a year of fulfillment of desires.

For the business community, Diwali is the first day of the financial calendar, and all over the country establishments settle old business accounts and new books are opened.

Whatever the origin, Diwali today is a combination of the traditional and the new. It heralds the renewal of life. It is a family event and both the young and the old are inspired. It is also a festival that has wide appeal, bringing into its fold every community. There is the hectic shopping for designer clothes, decorations and gourmet sweets. Street stalls come up everywhere selling Diwali wares. For the shopkeepers this is boom time. Shopping extravaganzas are organized. It is customary to purchase gold and household goods during this season and the markets scream out with the attractive bargains. Parties carry on for a week and in many homes gambling is another way to propitiate the Goddess of Wealth. Like Christmas there is the exchange of gifts between relatives and friends.

A drive through the city streets at night is a visual treat with building after building illuminated by thousands of lights. Elaborate firecrackers rend the stillness of the night. Diwali is a beautiful occasion to remove the darkness outside and within us. For Indians here and for Indian communities abroad it is an occasion to come together and strengthen the bonds of friendship.

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