Diwali (दीवाली) is a Hindu "festival of lights" celebrated at the new moon in the month of Kartika, around the time of the autumn harvest, autumnal equinox, and the start of the winter sowing. Hiltebeitel mentions claims that the celebration of Diwali can be traced to A.D. 50-100 and that it comes from an autumnal festival for the dead (making it thematically related to the Western Halloween).
The religious connotations of the festival are varied. Elements include: the return of Rama and Sita to the land where Rama ruled as king (Ayodhya in Northern India) [India for Visitors] and a symbolic re-enactment of the killing by Rama of Ravana and the freeing of Lakshmi [Grottanelli).
Ravana's effigy -- with ten heads -- may be burned (thematically related to the UK's fall celebration of Guy Fawke's Day).
Merchants and shops especially honor the goddess of wealth, Lakshmi. Indeed, the event marks the start of the financial year, for which reason Ganesha, too, has an honored place in Diwali. Golden objects may be set out to attract Lakshmi's favor. Doors are kept open to let her in. Candles left burning overnight may also help her find her way in.
The number of days of the celebration varies from region to region.
Small oil lamps or candles are customarily placed around the house. Sweet treats are exchanged, houses are thoroughly cleaned and new clothes worn. There's gambling, song and dance, and, of course, worship, "Lakshmi puja" . Fireworks highlight the bright light/fire theme.
- "Nahusa in the Skies: A Human King of Heaven," by Alf Hiltebeitel; History of Religions, (1977), pp. 329-350.
- "The King's Grace and the Helpless Woman: A Comparative Study of the Stories of Ruth, Charila, Sītā," by Cristiano Grottanelli; History of Religions, (1982), pp. 1-24.
- Indian Festivals: Diwali
- Diwali: Festival of Lights - From Hinduism at About.com
Also Known As: Deepawali