In India right at this moment they are celebrating one of their biggest festivals, the Diwali Festival.
The festival is an official public holiday in India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Mauritius, Fiji, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Suriname, Malaysia and Singapore. Most of these countries have similar customs to Indian culture or have a large Indian community in them. In Britain, the festival is celebrated by the large Inidan community, but not as a public holiday.
While the word diwali translates from Sanskrit as a row of lamps, it is known as the festival of lights. Oil lamps are lit, and placed around the house, and kept alight all night long, to welcome the goddess Lakshmi to the their house. The lights also signify the awareness of the inner light, which is the spiritual signifance of the festival.
The goddess Lakshmi is the main patron of the celebration. People clean up their houses to invite the goddess into their house.
The festival coincides with the harvest season in India. It celebrates the harvest that has been, and pray for a good harvest for the following harvest season.
As India is a large country, with an infinite amount of languages and cultures, and many different religions. This means that the way it is celebrated differs from state to state within India.
Some greetings for the Diwali pestival are:
- Diwali ki Shubhkamnayein : in Hindi
- Diwadi ni khub khub Shubhkamnao / Saal Mubarak: in Gujarati
- Tuhanu diwali diyan boht boht vadhaiyan: in Punjabi
While Diwali is popularly known as the “festival of lights”, the most significant spiritual meaning is “the awareness of the inner light”. Central to Hindu philosophy is the assertion that there is something beyond the physical body and mind which is pure, infinite, and eternal, called the Atman. The celebration of Diwali as the “victory of good over evil”, refers to the light of higher knowledge dispelling all ignorance, the ignorance that masks one’s true nature, not as the body, but as the unchanging, infinite, immanent and transcendent reality. With this awakening comes compassion and the awareness of the oneness of all things (higher knowledge). This brings anand (joy or peace). Just as we celebrate the birth of our physical being, Diwali is the celebration of this Inner Light.
While the story behind Diwali and the manner of celebration varies from region to region (festive fireworks, worship, lights, sharing of sweets), the essence is the same – to rejoice in the Inner Light (Atman) or the underlying Reality of all things (Brahman).
To view more of Wikipedia’s account of the Diwali Festival