Happy Diwali!!!!!

For most Indians Diwali, or the Festival of Lights, is one of the most significant days of the year despite the fact that most Indians are celebrating the festival for different reasons. The essence, for all religions, is that Diwali is considered a time of illumination and prosperity. The Goddess of wealth — Lakshmi - is invited into the home, where she is to bring wealth to the families who celebrate her. So she can find her way, Hindus light up their homes with diyas (small earthenware oil lamps). For Sikhs the day is significant for two reasons. The first brick for The Golden Temple was laid on Diwali 1588 and the release from prison of the sixth guru, Hargobind Singh, in 1619 is celebrated. Jains celebrate the attaining of Moksha: Liberation from Samsara (cycle of birth and death) and eternal Bliss.

By ZeePack via Flickr

Lamps and diyas are lit as a reminder to not only show the way home, but also invite an illumination to the idea of community and culture. Diwali is a time when everyone is encouraged to embrace one another and give rebirth to friendships, show love to family and forgive and forget any enmity. Renewal of love, life and friendship are the highest order.   In its truest form, Diwali is about unity. The sole purpose of the festival is to celebrate and rejoice what is good.

by San Sharma via Flickr

In an editorial, the Times of India summed up the modern meaning of Diwali:

"Regardless of the mythological explanation one prefers, what the festival of lights really stands for today is a reaffirmation of hope, a renewed commitment to friendship and goodwill, and a religiously sanctioned celebration of the simple – and some not so simple – joys of life."

In true Indian fashion, the meaning of Diwali is not limited to one thing.

Here are a few ways that Diwali is celebrated

Fireworks are also a big part of the Diwali celebrations, although in recent years there has been a move against them because of noise and atmospheric pollution and the number of accidental deaths and injuries.

Goddesses
Two Goddesses in particular are celebrated at Diwali: Lakshmi and Kali.

Wealth and Prosperity
For many Indians the festival honours Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth.

People start the new business year at Diwali, and some Hindus will say prayers to the goddess for a successful year.

Some people build a small altar to the goddess and decorate it with money and with pictures of the rewards of wealth, such as cars and houses.

Celebrating Lakshmi
Hindus will leave the windows and doors of their houses open so that Lakshmi can come in. Rangoli are drawn on the floors - rangoli are patterns and the most popular subject is the lotus flower. This because images of Lakshmi traditionally show her either holding a lotus or sitting on one.

There is much feasting and celebration, and the Diwali lamps are regarded as making it easy for Lakshmi to find her way to favoured houses.

Gambling
The downside of the festival is that many Indians see it as an occasion to gamble. This comes from a legend that the that goddess Parvati played dice with her husband on this day and she said that anyone who gambled on Diwali night would do well.

Gifts
Like Christmas in the West, Diwali is very much a time for buying and exchanging gifts.

Traditionally sweets and dried fruit were very common gifts to exchange, but the festival has become a time for serious shopping, leading to anxiety that commercialism is eroding the spiritual side of the festival.

In most years shopkeepers expect sales to rise substantially in the weeks before the festival.

Diwali is also a traditional time to redecorate homes and buy new clothes.

Kali
The goddess Kali is celebrated at Diwali in the Bengali and Oriya areas of India

Information taken from BBC website

For those of you celebrating, may you attain the inexhaustible spiritual and material wealth, and true illumination of the mind and heart. Happy Diwali.