Today marks the first out of five days of Diwali, a major holiday celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, and Buddhists all around the globe. The festival of lights signifies the importance of light over dark, it represents the elimination of evil and negativity out of people's lives while welcoming prosperity and peace.
Diwali is sometimes referred to as Deepavali, with 'deep' translating to 'light,' and 'avali' translating to 'row,' together the meaning is 'row of lights.' The holiday is observed during the month of Kartik, based on the Hindu lunisolar, it typically falls between October and November. While there is no one clear origin story, it is believed by Hindu mythology that Diwali emerged when the people of Ayodhya celebrated the return of their Prince, Lord Rama who had been away for 14 years battling and ultimately defeating the King of Lanka, Ravana. Lord Rama brought back with him his wife, Mata Sita, and brother, Lakshmana. Since people all around the world celebrate Diwali, traditions tend to vary, but a few common ones are performed by all. Celebrations happen throughout all five days of the popular Hindu festival. The family's come together for a feast wearing new clothes. Sweet foods and treats are eaten during the festival and family and friend's exchange gifts with one another.
Each day of Diwali symbolizes something different, for example, the first day, called Dhantes, signifies renewal, homes are cleaned and then decorated with rangoli designs, an artform made from colored rice and flowers. Decorative oil lamps, called diyas are placed everywhere - this is where the name festival of lights originated from. Other ways that light is represented are through lighting lanterns on the streets and shooting fireworks.
The second day, Naraka Chaturdashi, is said to be the day where sins are removed, essential oils are applied to the skin and baths are customary. The third day is the most important, Lakshmi Pujan is the darkest fortnight of the Lunar eclipse, this is when all the lights are lit up. It is believed that Goddess Lakshmi blesses people's homes on the third day. Padva or Govardhan Puja is the second to last day, where those celebrating build small hill figured shapes made out of cow dung to honor Lord Krishan, who is said to have saved the community farms from floods and rain. The fifth and final day, Bhai Duj, or brother's day celebrates the importance of siblings. It's traditional for brothers to give their sisters presents, while sisters perform a ceremony meant to provide protection from enemies.
Diwali is a valued festival for those who celebrate, marking the spiritual 'victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance.'