International Graduate Student Describes Diwali Festival Celebrated in India

Written by Suresh Gajapathy, MSAS Student

Diwali is one of the oldest and largest festivals in India celebrated throughout the country during the darkest nights between October and November on a New Moon day for three days. Diwali is celebrated to mark the victory of Lord Ram (Hindu God) over Ravana (the demon king of Lanka) and return to Ayodhya, India. During the Diwali festival, Hindus perform Lakshmi Puja (Lakshmi – Goddess of Wealth). The festival symbolizes the victory of good over evil, light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance. 

People prepare for the festival a week before by renovating, cleaning and decorating their homes with lamps, lanterns, candles, and electrical fittings with light works. Before Diwali, shopping with family becomes a major and important activity. The market gets crowded and businesses become busy with large sales transactions during this period. Traders advertise big sales and give great discounts and offers on merchandise. On this auspicious day, people buy new things such as clothes, gold and silver jewelry, cars, property, shares, etc. Women prepare homemade sweets and delicacies.  

Children enjoy the holidays with shopping, new clothes, sweets and firecrackers. The banks, stock markets, other financial and trading companies operate for few hours during Diwali. Some merchants and shopkeepers close out their old accounts and records and start a new fiscal year with blessings from Lakshmi.

In the evening, women and children decorate the entrance and the walkways with colorful floor design and artwork with lamps, colors and flowers to welcome Goddess Lakshmi home. People keep their doors and windows open and place lamps on the windowsills and balcony ledges.  Individuals visit their friends and relatives, take blessings from the elders, and exchange sweets and gifts. There is a gathering at home and it starts with a big feast in the evening and during the night fireworks light up the neighborhood skies. The fireworks signify celebration of Diwali and the belief that it chases away evil. On the night of Diwali the lamps are ritually kept burning all throughout the nights. People from other religions such as Jains and Sikhs also celebrate Diwali.