What is Diwali?
Diwali, also known as Deepavali or Dipavali, comes from the Sanksrit word dipavali meaning “row or series of lights”.
Rajnish Kashyap, general secretary and director of Hindu Council UK, explains that the festival, which is one of the most significant for those of the Hindu faith, can trace its origins back to ancient times “when the end of the summer harvest season was celebrated with much pomp and splendour”.
Diwali, the festival of lights, is a religious observance commemorated by Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and some Buddhists around the world.
Every autumn, the observance sees millions of people attend firework displays, prayer services and festive events in celebration of the occasion.
While Diwali holds significance for
“Loosely translated, Bandi Chhor means ‘release of incarcerated people’. So to Sikhs, the festival represents freedom.”
a variety of reasons, one of the core themes of the festival, as symbolised by the prevalence lights, is the triumph of good over evil.
Here is everything you need to know about Diwali:
Eleanor Nesbitt, professor emeritus at the Warwick Religions and Education Research Unit at the University of Warwick, adds that Buddhists and Jains “have other historical reasons” for celebrating Diwali.
“It signifies the triumph of light over darkness and good over evil and sees millions of lamps lit at homes, temples, shops and public buildings across the world,” Mr Kashyap tells The Independent.
Another main theme of Diwali is the recollection of a story called Ramayan, which details how the Hindu god Rama returned to his kingdom with his wife, Sita, and his brother, Lakchman, after several years of exile.
“To illuminate the path through which they return and in order to guide them home, diyas (clay lamps) are lit everywhere and the world is bathed in golden hues of light,” Mr Kashyap explains.
Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth, fortune and prosperity, is also celebrated in Hindu households during the festival.
Diwali coincides with the Sikh celebration of Bandi Chhor Divas, a religious holiday that commemorates the release of Sikh Guru Hargobind Ji from the Gwalior Fort in India in the 17th century.
“The Guru, who was imprisoned by the Mughal Emperor Jahangir, was standing against the emperor’s regime’s oppression of the Indian people,” says Gurmel Singh, CEO of Sikh Community and Youth Services and secretary general of the Sikh Council UK.