Diwali: 5 Things You Should Know About The Festival Of Lights

By Staff Reporter on November 12, 2012 11:01 AM EST

Diwali, Festival of Lights (Photo: Reuters)
Diwali, Festival of Lights (Photo: Reuters)

Diwali is a dazzling Hindu holiday that is celebrated for five days in line with new moon night, Amayasya, on the Indian calendar. A major holiday of deep symbolic importance, here is a "five facts" crash course on things you should know about India's Festival of Lights.

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1. Origin and Dhanteras, the first day of Diwali

A contraction from the Sanskrit word Deepavali, Diwali means row (avali) of lights (deepa). Just as birthdays observe the birth of our physical being, Diwali observes our soul and inner spirituality. Diwali celebrates the efforts to end ignorance, or darkness, by the gaining of knowledge and compassion, or light.

Hindu families traditionally place lit clay lamps around the entrance of their home before the night of the new moon, Amayasya. This year, Amayasya falls on Tuesday, November 13.

The clay lamps, known as diyas, serve two purposes. According to Hindu myth, the lamps celebrate and welcome Hindu deity Rama's return to the city of Aydhya after he defeated demon king Ravana. Secondly, the lamps also help to guide Lakshmi, the Hindu female deity of fortune and prosperity, to homes.

The first day of Diwali is Dhanteras. Given the return of Lakshmi to all the Hindu homes, Dhanteras is thought to be a favorable day to buy gold. Dhanteras was observed on November 11 this year.

2. Choti

Choti is the second day (November 12 this year) of Diwali and is based on the legend of Lord Krishna. According to the legend, The demon king Narakasura of Pragjyotishpur had stolen the earrings of Aditi, the mother of Lord Indra, and had kidnapped the 16,000 daughters of Hindu deities.

Eventually, Kord Krishna manages to slay the evil Narakasura, return the earrings and free the daughters.

Folliowing his epic adventure, Krishna bathed to wash off the blood of Narakasura. On Choti, observers would take a pre-dawn bath in oil to celebrate Krishna's triumph over the demon.

Interestingly, Choti Diwali is also known as Kali Choudas for some, a day for thieves to worship to Kali in hopes that the Hindu deity will protect them from police.

3. Diwali

November 13 is the main event of the 5-day celebration. Practicing pure spirituality and compassion, Diwali also celebrates giving back, making amends, and living in the present rather than in the past.

The exchange of gifts and sweets symbolize a renewal of friendship, making peace, and ending disputes and disagreements.

What's more, whatever fortunes a family receives from the generosity of the Hindu deities should be shared with those who are less fortunate.

Essentially, this is the actual practice of defeating darkness with light.

4. Lakshmi and Kuber

The third day of Diwali also worships Lakshmi and Kuber.

Traditions claim Lakshmi will wander the earth in searchof the cleanest house to offer blessings of fortune and prosperity. Clay lamps guide Lakshmi to homes and new brooms are purchased to sweep the house clean.

Along a similar vein, Hindu families will celebrate the deity Kuber as well. Kuber guides individuals who are not good at saving money even though they may be have no problems earning it.

5. Bhai Dooj

The final day of Diwali, Bhai Dooj, also known as Bhaubij or Yamadwitiya, celebrates the love between siblings.

Bhai Dooj is based on the legend of Yama, the deity of death. In the myth, Yama visits his sister Yami on the second day after the new moon. Yami wowuld paint a mark of good fortune on Yama's forehead to ward off bad luck. Sisters will paint their brother's forehead on Bhai Dooj to keep their brother's safe.

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