Advertising for Diwali starts in the beginning of August when retailer come up with the first offers and deals targeting consumers.
There is a sudden rush of thoughts in the head whenever and wherever there’s a mention of Diwali. Lights, crackers, celebrations, sweets, new clothes, shopping – all whizz past in exciting randomness. In India, we celebrate Diwali with passion and devotion. Different parts of the country celebrate in diverse fashions and observe unique rituals. Diwali lasts for four or five days in most places or could be just the two-day Jubilee in some parts. And the celebrations are not limited to India. Diwali is an official national holiday in Fiji, Guyana, Mauritius, Malaysia, Singapore, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Trinidad and Tobago and Suriname. Very recently, the government of Sindh, Pakistan also declared a holiday on Diwali.
All rituals and preparations included, Diwali celebrations span across five days. The main festival night of Diwali is the darkest night of the month Kartika in the Bikram Sambat calendar. It is generally the 15th day of Kartika. This time generally falls between mid-October and mid-November of the Gregorian calendar. In 2017, Diwali will be celebrated on the 19th of October.
Diwali is by now the main shopping season in India. Some of the biggest retailers have joined in on the Diwali euphoria and provide the best offers and deals during this sales period. For example, you find great offers with the following big retailers:
In preparation for Diwali, people invest their energy in cleaning and decorating their homes. On the 3rd day of Diwali, people dress up in their best outfits, participate in family prayers, start a firework and exchange gifts.
The most popular product categories people are looking for during Diwali are:
In ancient India, Diwali was celebrated as an annual festival of harvest. Over time, several legends got associated with Diwali (also called “Deepawali”). There are various pointers to why Diwali is actually celebrated in different parts of the country. Many believe it to be the marriage celebration of Goddess Lakshmi with Lord Vishnu. In Bengal, the festival of lights worships Mother Kali, the dark goddess of offense. Marwaris worship Lakshmi-Ganesha on Diwali as the symbols of Dhan (wealth) and Siddhi (attainment). Perhaps the most popular legend is that of Lord Ram’s return to Ayodhya with wife Sita and brother Lakshman after being triumphant in battle with King Ravana of Lanka.
Like most other Indian festivals, there is a box of legends associated with Diwali. Here are some of the popular Hindu legends.
The legend of Lord Ram is the most popular association with Diwali for many Indians. Near the end of the 14 years of exile, Ravana, the King of Lanka abducts Sita, the wife of Lord Ram. In an epic battle fought across the Indian Ocean modern day Sri Lanka, Lord Rama defeats King Ravana and returns to Ayodhya with his wife and brother. As Lord Ram came back to Ayodhya, the people of the city celebrated by lighting up earthen pots (diyas) and distributing sweets among each other. The lighting of lamps is also symbolic of the victory of good over evil. It is a tradition that is still followed widely in the nation.
Many communities across the north and west parts of the country celebrate Diwali as Lakshmi Puja. It is believed that the Goddess emerged when the Devtas and the Asuras were quarrelling over the nectar that emerged from churning the ocean. It is the same process when Lord Shiva swallowed the venom that emerged out of the process. Nevertheless, Goddess Lakshmi took charge of the situation and handed over the immortality nectar to the Devtas.
There’s a legend of Lord Krishna slaying the demon Narakasura on the day of Diwali. After being blessed by a boon from Lord Vishnu, Narakasura unleashes a fit of terror across the three dimensions. In sheer rage, he harassed the innocent and assaulted helpless women. It is said that Lord Krishna was requested by Narakasura himself that he be killed in a manner that people remember him for a long time. As a result, the day of Diwali is also known as Narak Chaturdashi.
The Diwali celebrations also correspond to the time when Lord Vishnu sent King Bali to Patala in his Vamana avatar. It is believed that even the mighty Devtas were in apprehension of the growing popularity and influence of King Bali. So, Lord Vishnu appears as a Vamana child and asks charity from the King. The child makes a unique request of taking as much land as he could measure in three steps. The king agrees and Vamana measures the earth and heaven in two steps. As King Bali realized it was the Lord himself, he asked Vamana to place the third step on his head. The King was subsequently sent to Patala.
Like Lord Ram, even the Pandavas were sentenced to twelve years in exile, albeit in a different age. When the Pandavas returned to Hastinapur, people celebrated once again by lighting up the capital with earthen lamps.
The reign of King Vikramaditya highlighted the Golden Era of Indian history. It is believed that he was coronated on the day of Diwali – giving his followers another great reason to celebrate the day.
The initial celebrations of Diwali were themed around the season of harvest. It is majorly the season when Indian farmers would harvest crops and worship Goddess Lakshmi as the giver of wealth. As part of the tradition, the farmers would offer small portions of every harvest to the Goddess.
In most parts of North India, Diwali is also the start of the Hindu New Year. On this day, Hindus also seek the blessings of Goddess Saraswati, the preserver of knowledge and Kuber, the official treasurer and bookkeeper of the Devas.
Diwali is popular as the Bandi Chhor Diwas among Sikhs. This day is commemorated to mark the release of Sikh Guru, Guru Hargobind Singh. It is said that Guru Hargobind Singh was held prisoner at Emperor Jahangir’s orders. Along with him, 52 other Hindu princes were under custody too. When Jahangir finally agreed to the release of Guru Hargobind Singh, the Sikh Guru demanded the release of all the other princes too. In a rare show of bravery, Guru Hargobind Singh was successful in securing the release of all the princes.
The tale also goes back to Jahangir allowing a release of all princes who could hold the guru at the time of release. Guru Hargobind Singh was equally smart and had a robe made with 52 strings hanging out of it. Each prince could hold on to one string each and they would all be released eventually. The Sikhs marked the celebrations of this day by lighting up all quarters of the Golden Temple.
The last Jain Tirthankar Lord Mahavira attained Nirvana on the day of Diwali. It is also believed that a gallery of Gods was present when Lord Mahavira received Nirvana. This was the time when all darkness blew off from his life. It was also on the day of Diwali that the chief disciple of Lord Mahavira, Gandhar Gautam Swami attained Kevalgyan (absolute knowledge).
Buddhists also celebrate Diwali with equal zeal. This day marks the juncture when King Ashoka chose the way of the Buddha.
Each day of the festival is a legend, myth and tale in its own. Naraka Chaturdasi is the first day when Lord Krishna slayed Naraka. The second day is Amavasya and is marked by the worship of Goddess Lakshmi. It is believed that devotees blessed by the benevolent Goddess of wealth always live a happy and wealthy life.
Amavasya is also the day of Lord Vishnu, who came to earth in his Vamana avatar. On the third day, King Bali comes out of Patala once every year to light a billion lamps that would dispel away darkness and spread the light of knowledge. The fourth day of the festival is called Yama Dwitiya or Bhai Duj. On this day, sisters invite home their brothers and pray for their well-being.
Every ritual and tradition observed during Diwali have their own significance. The illumination of homes and skies with lights and firecrackers is an expression reverence to the Gods for the knowledge, peace, wealth and health they have given us. Some beliefs state that the sound of crackers is heard by in the heavens and the Gods come to know of the plentiful manner in which people are living their lives on earth.
More scientifically, the cracker fumes are said to kill many insects and mosquitoes which literally wreak havoc after the rainy season.
There’s a legend behind the tradition of gambling during Diwali.
People believe that lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati played dice together on this day. The divine couple gave a doctrine that whoever gambles on this day will remain prosperous all through the year. This is just one of the many ways in which Diwali is associated with wealth and prosperity.
More than anything else, Diwali is the festival of joy and prosperity. Friends and families come together to celebrate the beautiful gift of life. And the skies light up in exuberance.