Today is Diwali, the most well-known Indian festival and holiday. This holiday is celebrated all throughout Indian, and acknowledged or celebrated by Indians all over the world. Diwali, or Dīpāvali, translates as a “row of lamps” in Sanskrit. Hence, it is the festival of lights. However, it is called different names and celebrated differently in the different regions of India and Nepal. This is a significant holiday in Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism.
For Diwali, Indians and Nepalese will often light diyas (small oil lamps made of cotton wicks that are inserted into oil into small clay pots), so that they can decorate various areas of their homes, including roof tops. In cities, people often substitute these lamps with candles or neon lights. Other decorations include wall hangings modeled after Ganesh and Lakshmi, and door hangings that are crafted with embroidery, bells, mirrors and shells. People will also exchange candy and presents, and set off fireworks. It is also common for people to sport their new clothes. In North India, many business communities will begin their financial years on Diwali.
Diwali also signifies the end of harvest season in India and Nepal. The farmers sow their final crops, and pray for a successful harvest the following year. They will often pray to Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth.
There are also traditional meals eaten during Diwali, such as mushrooms in onion gravy, gujia and wheat laddu.
This holiday has different meanings to people of different beliefs. Hindus acknowledge Diwali as when Rama returned after a 14-year exile in the woods, as well as his victory over Ravana. The people in Ayodhya, the city he returned to, lit many rows of lamps to welcome him back. Southern Indians acknowledge Diwali as when Krishna defeated Naraksura (the battle of two gods). In Jainism, Diwali was when Mahavira achieved nirvana in 527 BC. In Bengal, the holiday is related to the goddess Kali. Buddhists in Nepal also celebrate this holiday. Regardless of faith, this is the most aesthetic holiday celebration in both India and Nepal.
Aside from religious history, Diwali is also meant for people to recognize their inner lights. Hindus believe that there is an awareness separate from the body, that is pure and infinite. This holiday really celebrates its importance.