What is the meaning of the word “divali”?
Divali means “row of lights” or is sometimes interpreted “garland of lights”. Divali is the Hindu (and Sikh) equivalent to Christmas and Hannukah, as it is a festival of lights.
When is Divali celebrated?
Divali (sometimes Diwali or Deepavali) is celebrated at the end of October, beginning of November time. Specifically Divali starts on the thirteenth day of the dark half of the month of Ashwin. The Indian dating system means that months are constructed around the lunar month, which means that each month is exactly twenty-eight days, from one new moon to the next. The second half of the month, known as the “dark half” of the month, is when the moon appears to getting smaller and smaller. As the thirteenth day of the second half hardly any moon is to be seen, the symbolism of Divali, the festival of lights, becomes more apparent, as there is not much natural light at that time of year at night.
What is the importance of the goddess Lakshmi at Divali?
The importance of the goddess Lakshmi at this time of year is great, as Lakshmi is the goddess of wealth and prosperity. This is one of the fundamental reasons why financial years end at the beginning of Divali and begin again after Divali. People pray to Lakshmi in the hope that Lakshmi will ensure a prosperous working year as well as success in business. One of the purposes of the divas (the lamps lit during Divali time) is to welcome the spirit of Lakshmi into the home and hope she will give her blessing. Inside most Hindu family homes, there is a shrine, to promote worship and to convey the importance of the Hindu Gods, even in the home. The images of Lakshmi are specially decorated and surrounded with gifts of food, fruit, flowers and sweets.
Which story is told at Divali?
The story of Rama and Sita is the ultimate story of the victory of good over evil. The Ramayana is therefore told at Divali as Divali is essentially about welcoming good spirits into the home (namely the godly spirit of Lakshmi) and about driving away the unpleasant and unwanted spirits, in hope of then having a good new year, similar to the Western quote “turning over a new leaf”. However the stories and legends told at Divali vary depending on where about the festival is being celebrated.
Describe three objects associated with Divali?
- A puja tray is a tray on which offerings of kum-kum (red powder), rice, grains, fruits, flowers, water, incense and light are made to a specific deity (god), and usually accompanied by the recitation of sacred texts. In the case of Divali, this offering is made to Lakshmi (or Kali, depending on the location of the celebration.
- Traditionally diva lamps (or dewa lamps) are lit during the time of Divali, and this is where the origins of the word “divali” are from. These “lamps” are small earthenware lamps conventionally fuelled by mustard oil. These lights are used to decorate the interior and exterior of Hindu homes and are placed in rows, often on windowsills to guide the spirit of Lakshmi into the home.
- Rangoli patterns are patterns drawn on the ground – most popularly of the lotus flower, on which Lakshmi is often depicted to be sitting on. Rangoli is simply power, often coloured and sometimes very complex and intricate designs are created.
How do Hindus celebrate Divali?
The main celebration of Divali usually lasts 3 to 5 days, depending on the areas of India where it’s being celebrated. Some of the rituals include bathing the image of Lakshmi, usually in milk. This is a cleansing process and a very careful and sacred service as the image is almost treated with the same respect as a human being or a cow normally is. Divali is a very popular festival with Hindu children, as there are many lovely fireworks and colours around, however not as popular as Ganesh Chaturti. Divali could be compared to the Christian festival of Christmas, as presents are exchanged as well as Divali being a time for family togetherness and unity.
The celebration of Divali varies depending on the region of India you visit. For instance the goddess Kali is more widely celebrated in the North than in the south, where Lakshmi is considered the more central goddess. As well as this different stories are told wherever you go; one of these instances is the story of Krishna killing of the demon Narakaasura.
Besides the more traditional elements of the festival, celebration also varies from country to country. For instance in Britain the celebration of divali is particularly apparent in some areas of the country (e.g. Bradford, a town with a high population of Hindus). In these areas, electric lamps are also used and they are perhaps not as traditional as the Hindus in India. However in spite of this, areas where there are higher populations of Hindus in London, e.g. Neasden, North-West London where the Shri Swaminarayan Hindu Mandir is located, the Divali celebrations taking place were apparent.
Why do Hindus celebrate Divali?
Hindus celebrate Divali because it brings them good luck and wealth, as well as it being a celebration of the unity within the family and community, where everyone comes together to celebrate. Divali also reiterates the importance of family values as well as religion-perhaps two values, which are disappearing in 21st century life. As well as this it’s a time to spoil themselves and to decorate their homes and lifestyles for a few days – a time when they can relax and have a good time.
How is Divali a good way for Hindus to pass on their religion to their children?
Divali is a very popular festival for children as well as adults and it also sheds a slightly different light on religion and religious practice altogether, presenting that it can be enjoyable and fun and light-hearted, as well as religious. It’s also a good time to educate, as many legends and stories are told, as well as the worship of gods, namely Lakshmi. The colours and various patterns can be enchanting to children, and they may want to relive it and pass it on to future generations, encouraging the spreading of the words of Hinduism.
Comparisons between Divali and Christmas
- Both are festivals of light for their respective religions. They are both traditionally a time for the family and have many legends and stories surrounding them about the origins, as well as stories within the two festivals (Christmas, the Christmas story and the birth of Jesus Christ, as told in the Bible, and Divali the Ramayana). Decoration is also a large part of both festivals, as the Christmas tree is customary tradition at Christmas, and the diva lamps are the main decoration in divali, as well as the ragoli patterns. Presents are exchanged at both festivals and special foods are eaten in celebration of the occasion.
- Divali has more religious morals for more people; unfortunately for many people Christmas is now a time to get presents and sometimes the actual religious significance is forgotten. As well as this, the commercialism of Christmas has had an affect on this, as now it is a time for the greetings cards companies to make money, rather than appreciating the birth of Jesus, over 2000 years ago.