Diwali, also called Deepavali, is a Hindu festival that lasts 4 or 5 days. Diwali is a festival of light that is usually held between the middle of October and the middle of November. The festival is about the “victory of light over darkness, good over evil and knowledge over ignorance.” Hindus believe that light is a metaphor for knowledge and consciousness, and light candles around their homes.
People who celebrate Diwali prepare for the festival by cleaning up their homes and offices. They decorate their homes with candles and worship Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth (below.) Family feasts are held, sweets and gifts are given and fireworks are lit. It is not just Hindus who celebrate Diwali: Sikhs and some Buddhists also celebrate Diwali.
The 5 days of Diwali
Day 1 (Dhanteras)
On the first day of Diwali, which is called Dhanteras, Hindus clean their homes and offices. They place small candles near paintings of Lakshmi and Ganesha, who are both Hindu gods. Women and children decorate doors in their homes and offices with colourful designs using rice flour, flower petals and sand. In the evening, families pray to Lakshmi and Ganesha, before offering puffed rice to them.
Day 2 (Naraka Chaturdashi)
On the second day, called Naraka Chaturdashi or Chhoti Diwali, some Hindus pray for peace for their relatives’ souls in the afterlife. One interpretation of this day is the destruction of the demon by Krishna, which freed 16,000 princesses kidnapped by the demon. It is also a day for buying festive foods, such as sweets. Many Hindus visit their favourite temple on this day.
Day 3 (Lakishmi Puja)
On the third day, called Lakshmi Puja, Hindu and Sikh temples are covered in lights. This is why Diwali is called the “festival of lights.” Children visit their grandparents. Shops don’t open on this day, allowing workers to spend time with their families. In the evening, Hindus will wear their best clothes. Teenage girls and women wear saris and jewellery. Prayers are said for Hindu gods. Small candles are lit, placed in rows or sent out into rivers and streams. In the evening, many Hindus welcome Lakshmi into their clean homes to bring happiness for the next year. Before the sun sets, lamps inside and outside the home are lit to welcome Lakshmi.
Day 4 (Annakut)
On the fourth day, called Annakut, Padwa or Govardhan puja, celebrates the bond between husband and wife. Some Hindus give gifts to their wives whilst others may invite their newly married child with their partner to a special meal, where gifts are given.
Day 5 (Bhai Duj)
On the fifth day, called Bhai Duj, literally meaning “brother’s day”, celebrates the bond between a sister and her brother. Women of the family gather and pray for their brothers, before feeding their brothers with their hands and giving gifts.