the staff of the Ridgewood blog
Ridgewood NJ, Deepawali, Deepavali, or Diwali is the biggest and the brightest of all Hindu festivals. It is the festival of lights: deep means “light” and avali “a row” to become “a row of lights.” Diwali is marked by four days of celebration, which literally illuminates the country with its brilliance and dazzles people with its joy. The Diwali festival occurs in late October or early November. It falls on the 15th day of the Hindu month of Kartik, so it varies every year. Each of the four days in the festival of Diwali is marked with a different tradition.
Some people refer to Diwali as a five-day festival because they include the festival of Dhanteras (dhan meaning “wealth” and teras meaning “13th”). This celebration of wealth and prosperity occurs two days before the festival of lights. The tradition of gambling on Diwali also has a legend behind it. It is believed that on this day, Goddess Parvati played dice with her husband Lord Shiva. She decreed that whosoever gambled on Diwali night would prosper throughout the ensuing year.
All of the rituals of Diwali have a significance and a story behind them. Homes are illuminated with lights, and firecrackers fill the skies as an expression of respect to the heavens for the attainment of health, wealth, knowledge, peace, and prosperity.According to one belief, the sound of firecrackers indicates the joy of the people living on earth, making the gods aware of their plentiful state. Still another possible reason has a more scientific basis: the fumes produced by the firecrackers kill or repel many insects, including mosquitoes, which are plentiful after the rains.
Beyond the lights, gambling, and fun, Diwali is also a time to reflect on life and make changes for the upcoming year. With that, there are a number of customs that revelers hold dear each year.
Give and forgive. It is common practice that people forget and forgive the wrongs done by others during Diwali. There is an air of freedom, festivity, and friendliness everywhere.
Rise and shine. Waking up during the Brahmamuhurta (at 4 a.m., or 1 1/2 hours before sunrise) is a great blessing from the standpoint of health, ethical discipline, efficiency in work, and spiritual advancement. The sages who instituted this Deepawali custom may have hoped that their descendants would realize its benefits and make it a regular habit in their lives.
Unite and unify. Diwali is a unifying event, and it can soften even the hardest of hearts. It is a time when people mingle about in joy and embrace one another.
Prosper and progress. On this day, Hindu merchants in North India open their new account books and pray for success and prosperity during the coming year. People buy new clothes for the family. Employers, too, purchase new clothes for their employees.
Homes are cleaned and decorated by day and illuminated by night with earthen oil lamps. The best and finest illuminations can be seen in Bombay and Amritsar. The famous Golden Temple at Amritsar is lit in the evening with thousands of lamps.
This festival instills charity in the hearts of people, who perform good deeds. This includes Govardhan Puja, a celebration by Vaishnavites on the fourth day of Diwali. On this day, they feed the poor on an incredible scale.
Illuminate your inner self. The lights of Diwali also signify a time of inner illumination. Hindus believe that the light of lights is the one that steadily shines in the chamber of the heart. Sitting quietly and fixing the mind on this supreme light illuminates the soul. It is an opportunity to cultivate and enjoy eternal blis