Diwali, the five-day Hindu festival of lights, is the most popular of all the festivals of South Asia. Although it is known predominantly as a Hindu festival, it is also celebrated by Jains, Sikhs and Newar Buddhists.
Diwali is known as the festival of lights because houses, shops and public places are decorated with small earthenware oil lamps called diyas. The word Diwali comes from the Sanskrit word deepavali, meaning ‘rows of lighted lamps’.
The exact dates change each year, depending on the position of the moon, but for 2021 Diwali falls on Thursday 4 November.
The reasons for celebrating it vary regionally, but the practices of stringing bright lights, and giving sweets and gifts, are common throughout the country.
The festival celebrates the victory of good over evil, light over darkness and knowledge over ignorance, although the actual legends that go with the festival are different in different parts of India:
Diwali celebrations have evolved in countless ways over the years. For many Indians this five-day festival honours Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. The lights and lamps are said to help Lakshmi find her way into peoples’ homes, with windows and doors being left open, bringing prosperity in the year to come.
People start the new business year at Diwali, and some Hindus will say prayers to the goddess for a successful year.
In Britain, as in India, the festival is a time for:
Rangoli is a popular Diwali tradition – beautiful patterns made using colourful powders and flowers. People draw rangoli on the floor by the entrance of their homes to welcome the gods and bring good luck. The most popular pattern is the lotus flower.
Today, this festival is celebrated by thousands of people in countries all around the world. During Diwali, Hindus living outside of India gather at places of worship called mandirs to leave offerings to deities, watch firework displays and eat celebratory feasts together.
The UK city of Leicester holds the largest Diwali celebrations outside of India. Every year, tens of thousands of people gather in the streets to enjoy vibrant shows of light, music and dancing.
Now you've read the Blog, why not test yourself, colleagues and friends by taking the Diwali Quiz? Or if you work with colleagues, clients or suppliers based in India, perhaps you should consider our 'Working Effectively with India' course.
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