Diwali facts for kids

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Diwali / Deepavali
Diwali / Deepavali
Rangoli decorations, made using coloured powder, are popular during Diwali
Also called Deepavali
Observed by Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists
Type Indian, Cultural, Seasonal
Begins Dhanteras, 2 days before Diwali
Ends Bhai Dooj, 2 days after Diwali
Date Varies per Hindu Lunisolar calendar
2017 date 21 October (Saturday)
2018 date 7 November
2019 date 27 October (Sunday)
Celebrations Diya and lighting, home decoration, shopping, fireworks, puja (prayers), gifts, performing religious rituals, feast and sweets
Related to Kali Puja, Diwali (Jainism), Bandi Chhor Divas

Diwali (Deepavali or Deepawali or Dipawali) is one of the India's biggest festivals. Diwali means rows of lighted lamps. It is a festival of lights and every Indian celebrates it with joy. During this festival, people light up their houses and shops. They worship Lord Ganesha for good welfare and prosperity and Goddess Lakshmi for wealth and wisdom.

Deepawali is an official holiday in India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Singapore.

This festival is celebrated in the Hindu month of Kartika which falls sometime during October or November. It is celebrated to mark the return of Lord Rama from 14 years of Exile and his victory over the Demon Ravana. In many parts of India, Diwali is celebrated for five consecutive days and is one of the most popular festivals in India. Hindus regard it as a celebration of life and use the occasion to strengthen family and relationships. In some parts of India, it marks the beginning of the new year. It is celebrated not only in India but also abroad. The Hindus worship the Lord Ganesha and Goddess Laxmi during Diwali.

Mata Mandir
Mandir (Temple) decorated with lights during Dipawali

Firecrackers, which use sulphur and paper, put sulphur dioxide and charcoal into the air so crackers are now forbidden in silent zones i.e. near hospitals, schools and courts.

Hindus light up their homes and shops, to welcome the goddess of wealth and fortune, Goddess Lakshmi , to give them good luck for the year ahead. A few days before Ravtegh, which is the day before Diwali, houses, buildings, shops and temples are thoroughly cleaned, white-washed and decorated with pictures, toys and flowers. On the Diwali day, people put on rich clothes, exchanging greetings, gifts and sweets on this day.

At night, buildings are illuminated with earthen lamps, candle-sticks and electric bulbs. Sweets and toy shops are decorated to attract the passers-by. The bazaars and-streets are overcrowded. People buy sweets for their own families and also send them as presents to their friends and relatives. At night, Goddess Laxmi, the goddess of wealth, is worshiped in the form of earthen images and silver rupee. People believe that on this day, Hindu Goddess Laxmi enters only those houses which are neat and tidy. People offer prayers for their own health, wealth and prosperity. They leave the light on in buildings in their belief that Goddess Laxmi will find no difficulty in finding her way in.

Description and rituals

Diwali is a five-day festival in many regions of India, with Diwali night centering on the new moon – the darkest night – at the end of the Hindu lunar month of Ashvin and the start of the month of Kartika. In the Common Era calendar, Diwali typically falls towards the end of October, or first half of November each year. The darkest night of autumn lit with diyas, candles and lanterns, makes the festival of lights particularly memorable. Diwali is also a festival of sounds and sights with fireworks and rangoli designs; the festival is a major celebration of flavors with feasts and numerous mithai (sweets, desserts), as well as a festival of emotions where Diwali ritually brings family and friends together every year.

Rituals and preparations for Diwali begin days or weeks in advance. The festival formally begins two days before the night of Diwali, and ends two days thereafter. Each day has the following rituals and significance:

Diwali Festival
Lighting candle and clay lamp in their house and at temples during Diwali night

Dhanteras (Day 1)

Dhanteras (celebrated in Northern and Western part of India) starts off the five day festival. Starting days before and through Dhanteras, houses and business premises are cleaned, renovated and decorated. Women and children decorate entrances with Rangoli – creative colourful floor designs both inside and in the walkways of their homes or offices. Boys and men get busy with external lighting arrangements and completing all renovation work in progress. For some, the day celebrates the churning of cosmic ocean of milk between the forces of good and forces of evil; this day marks the birthday of Lakshmi – the Goddess of Wealth and Prosperity, and the birthday of Dhanvantari – the God of Health and Healing. On the night of Dhanteras, diyas (lamps) are ritually kept burning all through the nights in honor of Lakshmi and Dhanvantari.

Dhanteras is also a major shopping day, particularly for gold or silver articles. Merchants, traders and retailers stock up, put articles on sale, and prepare for this day. Lakshmi Puja is performed in the evening. Some people decorate their shops, work place or items symbolizing their source of sustenance and prosperity.

Naraka Chaturdasi (Day 2)

Narak Chaturdasi is the second day of festivities, and is also called Choti Diwali. The Hindu literature narrates that the asura (demon) Narakasura was killed on this day by Krishna, Satyabhama and Kali. The day is celebrated by early morning religious rituals and festivities followed on. This day is commonly celebrated as Diwali in Andhra pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Goa and Karnataka. Typically, house decoration and colourful floor patterns called rangoli are made on or before Narak Chaturdasi. Special bathing rituals such as a fragrant oil bath are held in some regions, followed by minor pujas. Women decorate their hands with henna designs. Families are also busy preparing homemade sweets for main Diwali.

Lakshmi Puja (Day 3)

Sweets Mithai in Shops for Diwali and other Festivals of India
Sweets mithai (dessert) are popular across India for Diwali celebration.

The third day is the main festive day. People wear new clothes or their best outfits as the evening approaches. Then diyas are lit, pujas are offered to Lakshmi, and to one or more additional deities depending on the region of India; typically Ganesha, Saraswati, and Kubera. Lakshmi symbolises wealth and prosperity, and her blessings are invoked for a good year ahead.

Lakshmi is believed to roam the earth on Diwali night. On the evening of Diwali, people open their doors and windows to welcome Lakshmi, and place diya lights on their windowsills and balcony ledges to invite her in. On this day, the mothers who work hard all year, are recognized by the family and she is seen to embody a part of Lakshmi, the good fortune and prosperity of the household. Small earthenware lamps filled with oil are lighted and placed in rows by some Hindus along the parapets of temples and houses. Some set diyas adrift on rivers and streams. Important relationships and friendships are also recognized during the day, by visiting relatives and friends, exchanging gifts and sweets.

After the puja, people go outside and celebrate by lighting up patakhe (fireworks). The children enjoy sparklers and variety of small fireworks, while adults enjoy playing with ground chakra, Vishnu chakra, flowerpots (anaar), sutli bomb, rockets and bigger fireworks. The fireworks signify celebration of Diwali as well a way to chase away evil spirits. After fireworks, people head back to a family feast, conversations and mithai (sweets, desserts).

Padwa, Balipratipada (Day 4)

The day after Diwali, is celebrated as Padwa. This day ritually celebrates the love and mutual devotion between the wife and husband. The husbands give thoughtful gifts, or elaborate ones to respective spouses. In many regions, newly married daughters with their husbands are invited for special meals. Sometimes brothers go and pick up their sisters from their in-laws home for this important day. The day is also a special day for the married couple, in a manner similar to anniversaries elsewhere in the world. The day after Diwali devotees perform Goverdhan puja in honor of Lord Krishna.

Diwali also marks the beginning of new year, in some parts of India, where the Hindu Vikram Samvat calendar is popular. Merchants and shopkeepers close out their old year, and start a new fiscal year with blessings from Lakshmi and other deities.

Bhai Duj, Bhaiya Dooji (Day 5)

The last day of the festival is called Bhai dooj (Brother's second) or Bhai tika in Nepal, where it is the major day of the festival. It celebrates the sister-brother loving relationship, in a spirit similar to Raksha Bandhan but with different rituals. The day ritually emphasizes the love and lifelong bond between siblings. It is a day when women and girls get together, perform a puja with prayers for the well being of their brothers, then return to a ritual of food-sharing, gift-giving and conversations. In historic times, this was a day in autumn when brothers would travel to meet their sisters, or bring over their sister's family to their village homes to celebrate their sister-brother bond with the bounty of seasonal harvests.

Festival of peace

On this festive occasion, Hindu, Jain and Sikh communities also mark charitable causes, kindness, and for peace. For example, at the international border, every year on Diwali, Indian forces approach Pakistani forces and offer traditional Indian sweets on the occasion of Diwali. The Pakistani soldiers anticipating the gesture, return the goodwill with an assortment of Pakistani sweets.

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