Diwali or Deepavali, popularly known as the "festival of lights," is a festival celebrated between mid-October and mid-December for different reasons. For Hindus, Diwali is one of the most important festivals of the year. Deepawali or Diwali is certainly the biggest and the brightest of all Hindu festivals. It's the festival of lights (Sanskrit: deep = light and avali = a row i.e., a row of lights) that's marked by four days of celebration, which literally illumines the country with its brilliance, and dazzles all with its joy.
The Origin of Diwali :
Historically, the origin of Diwali can be traced back to ancient India, when it was probably an important harvest festival. Diwali marks the end of the harvest season in most of India. Farmers give thanks for the bounty of the year gone by, and pray for a good harvest for the year to come. Traditionally this marked the closing of accounts for businesses dependent on the agrarian cycle, and is the last major celebration before winter.
However, there are various legends pointing to the origin of Diwali or 'Deepawali.' Lakshmi symbolizes wealth and prosperity, and her blessings are invoked for a good year ahead. Diwali celebrates to victory of the Good over the Evil and Light over Darkness. Is has a major religious significance for Hindus, Sikhs and Jains. In the western (gregorian) calendar, Diwali falls on a day in October or November every year - just after the monsoon season in India. The exact date varies and is being calculated based on the Hindu Luni-Solar calendar (according to the positions of the Sun and the Moon). The day of Diwali falls on Ashvina Amavasya (the lunar day of new moon) on 15 Ashvin (Hindu month). This date also marks the beginning of the Hindu New Year, and many businesses in India starting a new accounting year on the Diwali holiday.
Each of the four days in the festival of Diwali is separated by a different tradition, but what remains true and constant is the celebration of life, its enjoyment and goodness. On the first day (Dhanteras) people pray to Goddess Laxmi for prosperity and wealth. The second day (Choti Diwali) is also known as 'Small Diwali', 'Naraka Chaturdashi' or 'Kali Chaudas' in some states.
The third day is the actual day of Diwali. Many devotees visit their Temples for worshipping Lakshmi, Goddess of beauty, wealth and wisdom with Laxmi Poojas and also pray to Ganesh, the 'Lord of Beginnings' and 'Remover of Obstacles'. When Aarti is performed, oil lamps with a cotton wick are placed on a Puja Thali and offered to the deities, praising the deity by singing wonderful Aarti songs. At night people light up little oil lamps called Diyas, Dipa Lights or Ghee Lamps and place them around their houses.
The forth day (Padwa) is Kartika in the Hindu calendar and is also known as Govardhan Puja or Annakoot. It is said that Krishna defeated the god of rain and the heavens Indra on that day. He lifted Mount Govardhana to save people's life from the floods. On this day people cook mountains of food resembling Mount Govardhana. According to another legend followed in South-India, Vishnu defeated the demon-king Bali on this day. Finally the fifths and last day of Diwali is called 'Bhaiduj' ('Bhai Dooj') also known as 'Yama Dwitiya'. This is the day for brothers and sisters to strengthen their relationships. Just like Yami prayed for her brother Yama (God of Death), sisters are praying for their brother's well-being on this day, and brothers give little gifts to their sisters in return.
On Diwali families gather and eating lots of foods and sweets. It is also common to send Diwali greeting cards to family members, relatives and friends.All the simple rituals of Diwali have significance and a story to tell. The illumination of homes with lights and the skies with firecrackers is an expression of obeisance to the heavens for the attainment of health, wealth, knowledge, peace and prosperity.