Happy Diwali! An introduction to the Hindu holiday

Diyas, or oil lamps, are lit in celebration of the five-day Hindu festival of Diwali, which this year began October 24. (Photo by Arria Belli)

Happy Diwali! Today, more than 1 billion people around the world will celebrate the Hindu festival of lights.

Diwali, also known as Deepavali, is actually the third day of a five-day celebration and the last day of the Hindu calendar. The holiday is celebrated by Hindus, Jains and Sikhs and takes place annually between October and November. Diwali is celebrated around the world as the triumph inner light over evil.

Although traditions vary around the world, Diwali is universally celebrated with the lighting of diyas, or small clay oil lamps, and the gathering of family and friends. Celebrants often share sweets and snacks, which are prepared on the first day of celebrations. In many places, fireworks are set off throughout the night and homes are decorated with diyas.

Each day of the Diwali festival commemorates one of six stories associated with the holiday, and observers mark by a different form of celebration and remembrance. On the last day, people visit the temple to give thanks for their blessings during the previous year.

Diwali is widely celebrated throughout India and in other countries with large populations of Hindu people, including much of southeast Asia and parts of Africa. Additionally, Hindus celebrate Diwali around the world, including in the United States, United Kingdom and Canada.

I’ve been dreaming for years of visiting India for Diwali. The celebrations are characterized by warmth and generosity of spirit, the gathering of family and friends and the sharing of good food. So although I am not celebrating Diwali in India this year, I look forward to doing so someday. And of course, happy Diwali to all!

To find out more about the Diwali celebrations, as well as some practical advice for visiting India for the festival, visit these articles on Lonely Planet or Go India.

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Author:Meghan Erkkinen

I'm a 26-year-old freelance writer and world traveler. Follow me on Twitter @meghanerkkinen.

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