One of the most significant festivals in Indian culture, Diwali, the festival of lights, sees millions attend firework displays, prayers and celebratory events across the world every autumn.
The festival is celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs and Jains for a variety of reasons, although the main theme which runs throughout is the triumph of light over darkness and good over evil.
To celebrate, houses are decorated with candles and colourful lights and huge firework displays are held while families feast and share gifts.
What is Diwali?
Diwali is the five-day festival of lights, celebrated by millions of Hindus, Sikhs and Jains across the world. The festival, which coincides with the Hindu New Year, celebrates new beginnings and the triumph of good over evil and light over darkness. The actual day of Diwali is traditionally celebrated on the festival's third day, which this year falls on Thursday, October 23. The festival usually falls between the middle of October and the middle of November, although this is decided upon by the Hindu lunar calendar. While each faith has its own reason to celebrate the festival, one of the most popular stories told is the legend of Lord Rama and his wife Sita returning to their kingdom in northern India from exile after defeating the demon king Ravanna in the 15th century BC.
How is Diwali celebrated?
The festival is marked by large firework displays, to remember the celebrations which, according to the legend, took place upon Rama's return as locals set off their own version of fireworks. Those celebrating the festival also light traditional earthen diyas (candles) and decorate their houses with colourful rangoli artworks - patterns created on the floor using coloured rice or powder. During Diwali, families and friends share sweets and gifts and there is also a strong belief in giving food and goods to those in need. It is also traditional for homes to be cleaned and new clothes to be worn at the time of the festival.
What is eaten during Diwali?
The food most closely associated with the festival is Indian sweets, which come in a range of colours and flavours. The celebration however features various rich savoury and sweet dishes, and while eating out is popular, families will mostly prepare food at home for when guests arrive to exchange gifts and watch fireworks. Unlike the traditional roast turkey at Christmas, each family celebrating Diwali will more than likely have its own favourite meal for the festival, and the food will most often play a central theme to the celebrations.
Where can I celebrate Diwali in the UK?
Celebrations will be taking place across the UK this week, although some of the biggest are most often held in Leicester and London. Thousands are expected to turn up to the Diwali Day celebrations in Leicester on Thursday, which will feature hundreds of fireworks, street arts and live entertainment. In the capital meanwhile, large celebrations were held at the Diwali on Trafalgar Square event on Sunday, October 12.Reuse content
Diwali, the festival of lights, sees millions attend firework displays, prayers and celebratory events across the world every autumn.
Celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs and Jains for a variety of reasons, the main theme is the triumph of light over darkness and good over evil.
Here we take a look at one of the most significant festivals in Indian culture.
What is Diwali?
Also known as Deepavali, a Sanskrit word meaning “rows of lighted lamps”, it is one of the most popular Hindu festivals celebrated across South Asia. But it is also celebrated by Jains and Sikhs.
The festival of lights that celebrates the victory of light over darkness, good over evil and knowledge over ignorance.
It sees millions of earthenware oil lamps, called diyas, light up people’s homes, shops, public spaces and places of worship as part of celebrations which marks the start of the Hindu new year.
When is it celebrated?
Diwali falls between October and November, but the exact date changes each year as it is marked by the Hindu lunar calendar.
It lasts five days in total, with the festival of lights falling on the third days of celebrations, which is marked on the 15th day of the Hindu month Kartik.
This year that falls on 19 October.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan lights a ceremonial candle at the Diwali Festival at Trafalgar Square in London (AP)
What are the different legends being celebrated?
For many Hindus, Diwali celebrates the return of the deities Rama and his wife Sita to Ayodhya, an ancient Indian city believed to be the lord’s birthplace, following a 14-year period in exile and a battle fought by Rama and his army against the demon Ravana.
The demon had kidnapped Sita and Rama travelled along with Hanuman, the deity in the form of a monkey-man, to rescue her and kill the evil demons - as depicted in the epic "Ramayana".
Their victorious return home was celebrated by lighting the kingdom with lamps.
Diwali also celebrates the goddess of wealth and prosperity, Lakshmi. Some believes it falls on her birthday and the day she married Lord Vishnu.
Many in India leave their windows and doors open and light lamps to allow Lakshmi to find her way into their homes.
Dancers perform a traditional Indian dance during the Diwali festival of light celebrations, in Trafalgar Square (Reuters)
Many Sikhs celebrate the release of the sixth guru Hargobind Singh and 52 other princes from prison in 1619.
However Sikh celebrations for Diwali stretch further back than this date.
For Jains, it is a celebration of their Tirthankara, or spiritual leader, specifically their 24th of the current age, TirthankarMahavira, reached Moksha - the release from the death and rebirth cycle into infinite bliss and knowledge.
Fireworks fill the sky during the Diwali lights switch on in Leicester (Reuters)
How is it celebrated?
Diwali is part of a five day festival that is celebrated with music, lights, fireworks and sharing traditional sweets.
Many people prepare for the festival by cleaning and decorating their homes, and on the night of celebrations wear new clothes and take part in family puja, or prayers to Lakshmi.
Rangoli artwork – patterns and designs made from coloured powders, ground rice powders and flowers – are displayed, commonly depicting a lotus leaf.
Celebrations held across the UK included an annual festival in London’s Trafalgar Square presented by Mayor of London Sadiq Khan.
This had a programme of music and dance performances with traditional food available and activities such as yoga and henna.
Leicester’s celebrations, which are understood to be one of the biggest outside of India, saw 40,000 people turn up to watch the annual Diwali lights switch-on, with music and dancing held on the city’s Golden Mile.
It ended with a firework display.Reuse content