Image credit: akhilesh
When is Diwali?
Who observes Diwali?
The Festival of Lights is known as Deepavali (deep - lamp, vali - array). This is the name of the festival in Southern India and is how the festival is referred to in other Asian countries such as Malaysia and Singapore. In Northern India, it is more commonly known as Diwali, but they are essentially the same celebration.
In both countries and for Hindus around the world, the celebration revolves around the triumph of good over evil, purity over impurity, light over darkness. It is one of the most important Hindu festivals with over 800 million people celebrating the festival in various ways.
Diwali marks the return of Lord Rama, who was the seventh incarnation of Vishnu, from a fourteen year exile.
The Festival of Lights takes place on the darkest night (first night of the new moon) in the month of Kartik in the Hindu calendar.
Across India streets and temples are decorated with spectacular light displays and colorful garlands.
In their homes, people light small oil lamps called diyas. It is believed that deceased relatives come back to visit their families on Earth during this festival and the lights are a way to guide the spirits home. The sound of firecrackers exploding is common as the noise is said to drive away evil spirits.
Over 70% of all firecrackers used during Diwali come from the town of Sivaski in Tamil Nadu.
Families, friends and business associates exchange gifts and sweets, settle old business deals and are encouraged to rid themselves of hate, anger and jealousy.
The festival is a time for rejoicing and renewal.
Diwali holds significance not only in Hinduism but also in Sikhism who celebrate the release of their sixth Guru (literal translation: teacher) Hargobind. To Sikhs, it is known as Bandi Chhor Divas. The Jains celebrate it as the day when Lord Mahaveer, the last trithankara, attained Nirvana or Moksha.
Across India, the festival may last for several days and different regions may have holidays on these days.
Dewali in India in 2016
The most widespread holiday is 30 October, where Diwali is a holiday in Andhra pradesh, Arunachal pradesh, Bihar, Chandigarah, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Madhya pradesh, Nagaland, Odisha, Punjab, Rajasthan, Sikkim, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.
Diwali is celebrated on 29 October in Assam, Goa, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Tripura. In Assam, Odisha and West bengal, Kali Puja is also celebrated on 29 October.
On 31 October, the Dewali festival extends to a second day in Karnatkak and Mahrashtra. Vishavkarma Day is also celebrated in Punjab and Rajasthan.
In Malaysia, Diwali is known as Hari Diwali and is celebrated in the month of Aswayuja. It is a federal public holiday across Malaysia with the exception of the region of Sarawak and the Federal Territory of Labuan.