COLOMBO Deepavali or Diwali is an ancient festival celebrated annually by Hindus in autumn every year. It signifies the victory of light over darkness, good over evil, knowledge over ignorance and hope over despair. The festival lasts for a period of five days, of which the main festival night of Diwali falls on the darkest night of the new moon during the Hindu Lunisolar month of Kartik. This usually happens between mid-October and mid-November each year.
The lead-up to Diwali sees a great shopping festival taking place as devotees purchase requirements for their homes as well as gifts for loved ones. It is also common for people to buy valuable items such as gold jewellery during this period. Homes are cleaned, renovated and decorated before the festival begins, and on the night of Diwali, Hindu devotees dress up in new clothes or the best garments they possess. Rangoli or Kolam designs are made in the living room or shrine room. These are colourful designs of folk art which are drawn on the floor and are believed to represent sacred welcoming areas for Hindu deities. Lamps and candles are lit inside the home as well as outside and the family members participate in a pooja to Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth and prosperity. A family meal follows the pooja which is a feast of traditional sweetmeats such as Halwa, laddoo and Jelebis to name just a few.One can see colourful fireworks light up the night sky and illuminate each neighbourhood. The exchange of gifts between family members, relatives and close friends is another important part of the day’s celebrations.
Significance of Diwali
There are several legends connected to Hinduism which are believed to be the reason behind Diwali celebrations. These tales have been passed down through generations of Hindus and are narrated to little children even today as part of the festival’s traditions.
One of the most popular is the legend associated with King Rama. It is believed that he returned to Ayodhya after living in exile for 14 years on Diwali. He had defeated Ravana, the demon king who had abducted Sita, wife of Rama. The inhabitants of Ayodhya were overjoyed at the return of their King so they lit up their homes and distributed sweets to one another. We see that this tradition is very much a part of modern day Diwali celebrations too.
Another legend tells of the killing of Narakasura, an evil ruler in Assam. Lord Krishna plotted to kill Narakasura with the help of his mother Satyabhama, who was also Krishna’s wife. The plan was successful. But before dying Narakasura requested a boon from his mother Satyabhama, that his death should be celebrated with colourful lights. Therefore, the second day of Diwali – NarakaChaturdashicommemorates this event in history signifying the victory of good over evil. ToursLanka