Diwali is the most important festival of India. Although it’s a Hindu festival, it is celebrated by people of all religion irrespective of anything. The significance of Diwali goes much beyond the story behind it. To truly understand the essence of the festival so that you can appreciate it, here is a quick historical (or mythological) background.

Diwali at Golden Temple
Diwali at Golden Temple. Photo by gags9999.

Why is Diwali Celebrated?

As I mentioned earlier, Diwali is a Hindu festival. According to the Vedas, there are four time periods or Yug in the universe, and this story goes back to the Satyug (the age of truth).

This was the period during which Lord Ram is believed to have been alive. He was meant to be the King of Ayodhya after his father because he was the eldest son. But one of his stepmothers, Kaikeyi, wanted her own son to be the King. Because of this, she cunningly arranged for Lord Ram to be sent to 14 years of exile. His wife Sita and younger brother Laxman also accompanied him on the exile.

Ramayana war depicted in an old painting
Ramayana war depicted in an old painting. Photo by Wikimedia Commons.

The rest of the story is history. During the last year of exile, Sita was abducted by Ravan and to bring Sita back; the epic Ramayana war was fought. When Lord Ram along with his wife and brother returned to Ayodhya, a period of celebration took place there. Every family lit a diya (small clay lamp) and placed it in front of their house. Thus, the entire kingdom looked like a land of lights. It must have been a magnificent sight!

This is the story behind Diwali. It is celebrated every year to commemorate the return of Lord Ram after his long exile. But the interpretations of this story go way deeper. Lord Ram’s return meant the return of justice and truth to the land. Since he came back after killing Ravan, it also signifies the victory of good over evil.

Therefore, in its essence, Diwali is actually celebrated to commemorate the fact that good always overpowers evil and light can destroy darkness. A powerful message indeed.

What to Expect During the Festival

Lighting diyas and candles
Lighting diyas and candles. Photo by Harpreet Singh.

The preparations of Diwali begins at least two weeks before the actual festival. The festival itself goes on for five days. Before Diwali, homes must be cleaned because cleanliness is believed to bring good luck. People also buy new clothes before Diwali to wear during the days of the festival. Distributing sweets to your neighbours and relatives are also common. Temples are usually crowded in the morning during Diwali. To see the fervour associated with Diwali, you have to be in the North Indian states like Delhi, Varanasi and Rajasthan.

Houses decorated during Diwali
Houses decorated during Diwali. Photo by abhisawa.

Now one thing that you have to expect are firecrackers. If you’re in India two or three weeks before Diwali, you’ll notice that every shop in your vicinity has started selling firecrackers. The small ones are fine and can be harmless, but it’s the big ones that are the biggest problem.

Firecracker sale during Diwali
Firecracker sale during Diwali. Photo by Wikimedia Commons.

The sad truth is that although people still light diyas outside their houses, it’s more about bursting crackers now than anything else. In fact, the essence of the festival is quickly being lost. Since the last few years, accidents and pollution because of these crackers are increasing at an alarming rate. That’s why the Government has banned crackers now. But who listens or cares? People still do it never realising all the ill effects of it.

Crackers on the road
Crackers on the road. Photo by Akshat Goel.

So if you’re in India during Diwali, don’t walk much on the roads at night because you never know where a cracker is kept by the children or youngsters. Also, if you have a pet or see other animals scared or hurt by the crackers, please stay close to them or take them to a safer location. If the animal is wounded, inform any Animal Help Center.

Moreover, enjoy this Festival of Lights. Experience the excitement and the contagious positive vibe of the locals. Savour the yummy sweets prepared in every nook and corner. Marvel at the grandeur with which temples and localities are decorated. It’s one of the festivals that unite people all over the globe, and you have to be a part of this celebration too.

If you’d like to know about other festivals, check out the 5 Amazing Indian Festivals You Must Go To.

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