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Diwali: How the Festival is Celebrated in Different Regions of India

Diwali is one of the major festivals celebrated in India. It is also the ‘festival of lights’. Usually, it lasts for five days and is celebrated during the month of Kartika, between mid-October and mid-November. Diwali symbolizes the spiritual “victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance”.

Dimple Gupta
Diyas lit up on Diwali night
Diyas lit up on Diwali night

Diwali is one of the major festivals celebrated in India. It is also the ‘festival of lights’. Usually, it lasts for five days and is celebrated during the month of Kartika, between mid-October and mid-November. Diwali symbolizes the spiritual “victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance”. 

Diwali is celebrated 20 days after Vijyadasjmi (Dussehra) and is widely associated with Lakshmi, goddess of wealth and prosperity, along with Lord Vishnu, Krishna, Yama, Yami, Durga, Kali, Hanuman, Ganesha, Kuber, Dhanvantri abd Vishvakarma. 

The first day, Dhanteras, marks the beginning of Diwali. This day people clean their homes and business premises, put up decorations and lights, install diyas and make rangolis. The day also marks a major shopping day to purchase jewelry, new utensils, home equipments, firecrackers and other things. 

The second day, Narak Chaturdashi or Chhoti Diwali, the rituals performed this day is interpreted as ways to liberate any souls from their suffering in hell, as well as a reminder of spiritual auspiciousness.  

The third day, Diwali, homes and temples are aglow with lights, making it the “festival of lights”. 

The fourth day, Annakut/ Govardhan puja, the day is associated with Bali’s defeat at the hands of lord Vishnu. The agricultural symbolism is expressed by the word ‘Annakut’, meaning ‘mountain of food’. Communities prepare over one hundred dishes from variety of ingredients, dedicated to Lord Krishna before sharing it among the community, honoring the legend of lord Krishna saving the cowherd and farming communities from incessant rains and floods triggered by Indra’s anger. 

The last day of the festival, Bhai Duj/ Vishvakarma puja, celebrates the sister-brother bond, but it is the brother who travels to meet the sister and her family. The day symbolizes Yama’s sister Yamuna welcoming him with a tilaka 

North India: Diwali’s religious significance is associated with the return of Lord Rama to Ayodhya, along with wife Sita and brother Lakshman, after 14 years of exile, and celebrated as their homecoming. On this day people engage in gambling on Diwali night as it is considered auspicious. 

Houses are decorated with candles, lights, diyasbandhanwars and rangolis. Lakshmi puja is performed in the evening. 

East India: With the necessary rituals exactly the same, some people leave the doors of their homes open for goddess Lakshmi to enter and bring prosperity for the coming year. In West Bengal, Diwali is celebrated as Kali Puja. Here, Diwali night is considered to be the night of ancestors and diyas are lit on long poles to guide their souls on the way to heaven. This ritual is followed in Odisha too. 

Western India: Mostly associated with business and trade, the markets of western India are crowded with shoppers. A diya lit with ghee is left burning the whole night and the next morning the flame from that is collected and used as kajal, this is considerd very auspicious and believed to bring prosperity the whole year. 

South India: A unique ritual is observed in south India. On this day, newlyweds spend their first Diwali in the bride’s parental home. Narak Chaturdashi is the main day of Diwali celebrations. A day before that the oven is cleaned and smeared with lime. Religious symbols are drawn on the oven, filled with water and is used for oil bath the next day. 

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