Last week, November 4th, was Diwali 2021!
For Westerners to get a better understanding of what is Diwali right off the bat, let us start by saying that Diwali is to Hindus as Christmas is to Christians. In other words, very important and meaningful; a massive festival celebrated in collective unison.
The festival lasts five days, stretches back 2,500 years in tradition, and marks the beginning of the Indian fiscal year. But there’s much more to it than that. Let’s break down the aspects of Diwali to understand what it is.
What’s In a Name
The word comes from the Hindi translation dīvālī, which in turn comes from the Sanskrit dīpāvalī, meaning “row of lights”. If we break it down, dīpā means “lamp” and vali means “row”, evoking the literal translation of a row of lamps. Which more than fitting, since Diwali is a festival of lights.
Every year, India lights up with clay oil lamps called diyas. Hindu families place them wherever they can around the interior and exterior of their homes.
Each day in the festival has a name, the third of which is Diwali. It’s considered to be the most important day, which is why the festival often takes its name. The day of Diwali is the last day of the year that is ending, a Hindu New Year’s Eve, if you will.
Diwali follows the lunar calendar, making it so it usually falls sometime in October or November. The day of Diwali falls on the new moon phase in the Hindu month of Kartik, ringing in the new year in the Indian national calendar.
Kartik is considered to be the holiest month of the year. The day of Diwali falls on the fifteenth day of Kartik, as coincides with the new moon phase.
What Are We Celebrating?
Diwali is not just is the celebration of a new year, prayers for prosperity, and new beginnings.
The mythological story behind Diwali changes depending on the community. But, to everyone alike, the festival celebrates the triumph of light over darkness. In fact, it represents a general victory of positive over negative: strength over weakness, good over bad, and knowledge over ignorance.
The More, the Merrier
Although Diwali is thought of as originating in Hinduism, Hindus aren’t its only celebrants.
Joining in the party are Jains, Sikhs, and Buddhists, particularly Newar Buddhists. Countries that see large Diwali festivals include Sri Lanka, Nepal, Singapore, Indonesia, and even Western countries like Canada and the UK.
The 5 Days of Diwali
Day 1 (Dhanteras): Participants of the festival clean their homes and buy decorations with a gold color theme, including jewelry and utensils for mealtimes.
Day 2 (Choti Diwali): This is the day that decorating with clay oil lamps can finally begin. But there is more decorating to be done: floors and tabletops are embellished with sands and powdered pigments in a traditional Indian design called rangoli, a sign of welcome to all and good luck.
Day 3 (Diwali): To those who observe the festival, this is most important of the five days. Families gather at temples to carry out a ritual prayer to the goddess Lakshmi, goddess of wealth, called Lakshmi puja. After, there is a bountiful feast, the sharing of sweet festive treats, and a display of fireworks.
Day 4 (Padwa): The fourth day is the first day of the new year. On this occasion, there are visits from relatives and friends, prompting hearty well-wishing for a prosperous future and the exchanging of gifts. Marital relationships receive extra celebratory attention.
Day 5 (Bhai Duj): On the last day of Diwali, families visit their in-laws, who receive them with another special and sprawling feast. Sibling relationships are emphasized and exalted.
Diwali Across Languages
The themes of Diwali are prosperity, multiculturalism, and service to others.
We, at Language Connections, believe in these principles, too. We help businesses in all areas (tech and life sciences, education, law, etc.) grow through language services like website localization, remote conference interpreting, and eLearning translation.
Make sure your enterprise only works with the best professional translators in the world. And on that note, shubh Diwali, or happy Diwali, to all!
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