Deepavali, meaning “row of lamps”, is called “Diwali” in northern India.
It is a national holiday in India and Sri Lanka as in other countries with a significant Hindu population, namely Nepal, Myanmar, Malaysia, Singapore, Fiji, Mauritius, Guyana, Trinidad & Tobago, and Suriname.
Though Sri Lanka's Deepavali public holiday was scheduled 22nd of October this year, Diwali celebrations of pious Hindus around the world culminate today, on 23nd of October.
Deepavali is celebrated on the New Moon Night of the Hindu Lunisolar month Kartik, after five days of preparation. Deepavali marks the end of the ten-days Dussehra festival, also called Maha Navami. The final day, Deepavali, is therefore also called the “Dussehra holiday”. The festival commemorates diverse events from Hindu mythology. For most Hindus it is associated with legends told in the Ramayana epic Sri Lanka, since it celebrates Lord Rama’s final victory over Ravana, Sri Lanka’s Demon King, and the return of Rama with his wife Sita from Sri Lanka to Ayodhiya.
Diwali is also celebrated in Jainism and Sikhism. For Jains, it marks anniversary of attainment of Nirvana of Lord Mahavira, the last Tirthankara of the current world cycle. For Sikhs, it’s the "Bandi Chhor Divas", meaning "prisoner release day" or “freddom day”, since the sixth Guru, Guru Hargobind Ji was freed from imprisonment in Gwalior and hmself liberated many others on the same day. On his arrival in Amritsar the Harmandar (the "Golden Temple") was lit with hundreds of lamps "freedom day").
Private Diwali celebrations begin with an oil bath in the morning and dressing up in new clothes or their best outfit. Pious Hindus visit their local temples with their family. On Diwali night, they light up the lamps called “diyas”, participate in family puja to Lakshmi - the goddess of prosperity, then launch fireworks in their immediate neighbourhood, and after exchanging gifts with relatives and friends finally eat nighttime meals and sweets called “mithai” or “misiri”, special figures out of crystal sugar. Toys are made of enamel. In India, Diwali marks a major shopping period similar to the Christian Advent season. Tamil Diwali celebrations in Sri Lanka are more low-key compared to those in India, they lack many of the traditional aspects of Diwali such as public fireworks, games, singing and dancing, but the traditions of private lighting of firecrackers and a large meal are well preserved.
So make sure you don’t miss this eye-catching festival when travelling in South Asia these days!
Next year, Deepavali will be celebrated in Sri Lanka on the 11th of November.
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