Diwali is without a doubt the largest festival in India which is celebrated by Hindus, Jains and Sikhs alike. Diwali means ‘rows of lighted lamps’ and for Hindus, this festival refers to the well-known legend of when Rama and Sita returned to their rightful kingdom after fourteen years of exile.
On the other hand, Jains use Diwali to acknowledge Lord Mahavir gaining moksha (similar to the concept of nirvana) and Sikhs call Diwali ‘Bandi Chhor Divas’ (‘Prisoners’ Release Day’) after the sixth Guru (Guru Hargobind) and other royals were released from prison in 1619.
Ultimately, light symbolises enlightenment, positivity and the triumph of good over evil. Lighting divas (candles) and fireworks, exchanging gifts and munching on mithai (South Asian dolci) puts this ancient festival on the same level as Christmas for Hindus, Jains and Sikhs around the world.
Like Christmas, everyone celebrates Diwali differently but there remain a few traditions. The day after Diwali is the start of the Hindu New Year, so many people like to go to the temple and pray for a successful year. Here, worshippers offer vegetarian food to God and then consume it after it has become prasad (blessed food). Drawing rangoli patterns (folk art using coloured rice, sand flour or petals), buying new clothes and spring-cleaning are also typical occurrences.
Irrespective of your religion, it is great to experience the colours, vibrancy and food that is associated with the festival. Why not visit your local Indian restaurant to celebrate the day?