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Rai Shyam
Oct 24, 20228 min read

Diwali: History | Religious Significance | Celebrations | Famous Foods

The greatest and most significant holiday of the year in India is called Diwali, or Deepavali, Indians light a row of clay lamps (Deepa) outside of their dwellings to represent the inner light that guards against spiritual darkness, giving the celebration its name. This holiday holds the same significance for Hindus as Christmas does for Christians. A significant religious holiday in Hinduism, Jainism, and Sikhism, Diwali—also written Diwali—lasts for five days, from the thirteenth day of the dark half of the lunar month Ashvina to the second day of the light half of the lunar month Kartika. (The corresponding Gregorian dates typically fall in late October or early November.) The term "row of lights" or "Deepavali" in Sanskrit is where the name originates. The celebration typically represents the triumph of light over darkness. The way that Diwali is celebrated varies by place and culture. The most common Hindu tradition is to light diyas, which are little oil-filled clay lamps, on the night of the new moon in order to summon the goddess of riches, Lakshmi.


History as in the legend:

Early Sanskrit manuscripts make reference to the five-day festival's origins in the Indian subcontinent. Diwali is typically observed twenty days after Vijayadashami (Dussehra, Dasara, or Dashain), with Dhanteras, or the local equivalent, designating the festival's opening day. To prepare for the celebration, people clean their homes and create floor decorations like rangolis on this day. The day before Dhanteras, on Govatsa Dwadashi, several parts of India begin their Diwali celebrations. Naraka Chaturdashi is on the next day. Lakshmi Puja is performed on the third day, which is also the darkest night of the customary month. The day following Lakshmi Puja is celebrated with the Govardhan Puja and Balipratipada in several parts of India (Padwa).

Other Hindu and Sikh communities of craftsmen mark this day as Vishwakarma Puja and observe it by performing maintenance in their workspaces and saying prayers. Some Hindu communities mark the final day as Bhai Dooj or the regional equivalent, which is dedicated to the bond between sister and brother.

In the seventh-century Sanskrit play Nagananda, King Harsha alludes to Deepavali as Dpapratipadotsava, when lights were lit and newly engaged couples received gifts. In his Kavyamimamsa, written by Rajasekhara in the ninth century, which discusses the custom of homes being painted white and decorated with oil lamps at night, the author refers to Deepavali as Dipamalika. Many tourists from countries other than India also provided descriptions of Diwali. The Persian explorer and historian Al Biruni described Hindus celebrating Diwali on the day of the New Moon in the month of Kartika in his 11th-century memoir on India. Early in the 15th century, merchant and traveler Niccol de' Conti of Venice visited India. He noted in his memoir that during one of these festivals, "on another of these festivals, they fix up within their temples, and on the outside of the roofs, an innumerable number of oil lamps... which are kept burning day and night," and that the families would come together to feast and "clothe themselves in new garments." During his journey to the Hindu Vijayanagara Empire, where Diwali was celebrated, the 16th-century Portuguese traveler Domingo Paes wrote of his trip to the Hindu Vijayanagara Empire, when in October, people lit lamps to commemorate Deepavali in their houses and temples. Diwali was only observed in Ayodhya for two years, according to the Ramayana. As well as mentioning Diwali and other Hindu holidays, Islamic historians from the Delhi Sultanate and the Mughal Empire era did likewise. Some, including the Mughal emperor Akbar, approved of the festivities and took part in them, while others—like Aurangzeb in 1665—banned them.

Religious Significance:

Diwali's religious importance differs from place to region within India. One myth connects the celebration to the Ramayana, a Hindu epic, in which Rama, Sita, Lakshman, and Hanuman return to Ayodhya on this day after spending 14 years in exile after Rama's army of good vanquished Ravana's army of evil. The event is frequently linked by Hindus to Goddess Lakshmi, the consort of Vishnu and the goddess of wealth and prosperity. According to Pintchman, the beginning of the five-day Diwali festival is stated in some well-known modern sources as the day Goddess Lakshmi was born from Samudra Manthan, the churning of the celestial ocean of milk by the Devas (gods) and the Asuras (demons) - a Vedic legend that is also found in many Puranas such as the Padma Purana. Saraswati, who represents music, literature, and learning, and Kubera, who represents bookkeeping, treasury, and money management, are two other deities to whom trade and commercial families in addition to others pay prayers. 


The celebration of Diwali marks the beginning of a new year in some northern Hindu groups in India and in western areas like Gujarat. Eastern Indian Hindus link the event to the goddess Kali, who stands for the triumph of good over evil. Hindus from the Braj region of northern India, portions of Assam, as well as the southern Tamil and Telugu populations, consider Diwali as the day the deity Krishna defeated and slew the evil demon king Narakasura, in yet another symbolic victory of knowledge and good over ignorance and evil.The myths that are told during Diwali vary greatly by region and even within the Hindu tradition, but they all share a common emphasis on morality, introspection, and the value of knowledge, which, according to Lindsey Harlan, an Indologist and scholar of Religious Studies, is the way to dispel the "darkness of ignorance." These myths are recounted in a manner that is reminiscent of Hindu notions of the eventual victory of good over evil.

How is Diwali Celebrated?

Diyas and other vibrant lights are used by households throughout India to decorate their spaces for the holiday. There are festive lights and decorations on buildings and streets, as well as upbeat music and dance. There is a display of sound and light as brilliant fireworks are set off. By doing this, you might celebrate the triumph of good over evil and frighten away evil spirits. Diwali is frequently seen as a new beginning, much like the Lunar New Year in January. In preparation for the approaching year, many individuals clean, renovate, decorate, and buy new clothing. Debits are paid and peace is made at the festival of Diwali. 


Family reunions are frequently planned, and people frequently contact loved ones with whom they may have fallen out of touch. Soldiers from Pakistan and India have previously given candy as a sign of goodwill for Diwali near the disputed border. Diwali is a celebration for you if you have a sweet taste. Giving mithai as gifts is the most scrumptious custom (sweets). Indian treats like pedas, laddoos, jalebis, and barfis, as well as chocolates and dried fruit, are traded among friends and family in brightly colored boxes. Diwali is incomplete without creating colorful Rangolis using colors and flowers in homes. 

Duration of Diwali Festival:

Diwali is celebrated over a period of five days. Cleaning homes and buying little gold objects are the main activities on the first day or Dhanteras. That day, worship is mostly directed toward Lakshmi. The demolition of Narakasura by Krishna is commemorated on the second day, also known as Naraka Chaturdashi or Choti Diwali, and prayers are also performed for ancestors' spirits. Families attend temples and light diyas, candles, and fireworks on the third day, Lakshmi Puja, in order to ask Lakshmi for her blessings on their prosperity. The fourth day, also known as Goverdhan Puja, Balipratipada, or Annakut, marks the beginning of the new year in the Vikrama (Hindu) calendar as well as the celebration of Krishna's victory over the god Indra. Both religious rituals and new ledger books are opened by merchants. The link between brothers and sisters is honored on the fifth day, also known as Bhai Dooj, Bhai Tika, or Bhai Bij. Sisters pray for the success and welfare of their brothers on that day.


Famous foods on Diwali:

Any festival is incomplete without delicacies and treats. The same goes for Diwali as well.

Here is a list of special delicacies for Diwali:

1. Moong Dal ka Halwa
2. Gajar Ka Halwa
3. Paneer Tikka
4. Rice Kheer
5. Gulab Jamun
6. Masala Peanuts
7. Samosa
8. Aloo Bhujia
9. Murukku
10. Sooji Halwa
11. Namakpare
12. Onion Bhaji
13. Soan Papdi
14. Rasgulla
15. Aloo Bonda
16. Dry Fruits Sandesh
17. Atta Ladoo
18. Gujiya
19. Kalakand
20. Batasha

Diwali Celebration in other religious communities:

Other than Hinduism, other religious communities celebrate this festival with great vim, zest and enthusiasm. Here we would mention some communities that celebrate Diwali. This festival is celebrated by Hindus, Jains, Sikhs and Buddhists alike.

i) Jainism:

The lighting of lights and the offering of prayers to Lakshmi are common Jain Diwali customs that are observed in various regions of India. But commitment to Mahavira continues to be the main focus of Jain Diwali.On the day of Mahavira's nirvana, in 527 BCE, 18 monarchs who had come for Mahavira's final lectures issued a proclamation ordering that lamps be burned in commemoration of the "great light, Mahavira," according to Jain legend.This traditional age-old belief is reflected through artwork and paintings.

Jainism Diwali

ii) Sikhism:

In remembrance of Guru Hargobind's liberation from the Gwalior Fort jail by the Mughal emperor Jahangir and the day he arrived at the Golden Temple in Amritsar, Sikhs observe Bandi Chhor Divas. The founding of Amritsar in 1577, Guru Hargobind's release from the Mughal prison, and the day of Bhai Mani Singh's martyrdom in 1738 as a result of his failure to pay a fine for trying to celebrate Diwali and later refusing to convert to Islam are the three historical events that Ray Colledge claims the festival of Diwali highlights.

Sikhism Diwali

iii) Buddhism:

The Newar people of Nepal, who honor a number of Vajrayana Buddhist deities and observe Diwali by praying to Lakshmi, are the exception to the rule that most Buddhists do not observe the holiday of Diwali. In the same manner and on the same days as the Nepalese Hindu Diwali-Tihar holiday, Newar Buddhists also celebrate the five-day Diwali festival in the country's valleys. The worship of Lakshmi and Vishnu during the Newar Buddhist community's traditional celebration of Diwali, according to some observers, is not syncretism but rather a representation of the freedom within Mahayana Buddhism to worship any deity for one's worldly advancement. 

Buddhism Diwali