Diwali or Divali (also known as Deepavali, Tihar and the "festival of lights") is an ancient Hindu festival celebrated in autumn every year. Diwali is the biggest and the brightest festival in India. The festival spiritually signifies the victory of light over darkness. The festival preparations and rituals typically extend over a five-day period, but the main festival night of Diwali coincides with the darkest, new moon night of the Hindu Lunisolar month Kartika. In the Gregorian calendar, Diwali falls between mid-October or November and is celebrated by millions of Hindus, Sikhs and Jains across the world.
The festival is a celebration of good over evil, light over darkness and knowledge over ignorance. However the actual legends that go with the festival are different in different parts of India.
In northern India, Diwali is a celebration of Rama's return after 14 years to Ayodhya after the defeat with Ravan. In Gujarat, the festival honours Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. In Nepal Diwali commemorates the victory of Lord Krishna over the demon king Narakaasura. In Bengal, it is associated with the giddess Kali.
Days of celebration India
Day 1 - Dhun Teras ‘Dhun’ means money or wealth. Traditionally people would wash their money on this day. In their homes, people literally wash coins in milk and water and worship Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. It can also be said that to give or distribute money to the poor and needy, is a way of ‘washing your wealth’.
Day 2 - Kali Chaudas Some say that those who are into tantra, learn their ‘mantras’ on this day. Alternatively, people offer Nived (food) to the goddess that is local to where they are originally from. This goddess is called their ‘Kul Devi’, in order to cast off evil spirits. Some families also offer food to their forefathers on this day.
Day 3 - Diwali Diwali is the last day of the Hindu year and thus also the end of the Hindu financial year. Many businessmen close their account books and do rituals to open their new account books for the next financial year, in order to gain prosperity in the next financial year. In the Ramayana, Rama, Sita and Lakshmana returned to the kingdom of Ayodhya on this day as it was the last day of the last year of their 14 year banishment. As it was so dark, the subjects of the kingdom, lit ‘divas’ (little wicks doused in ghee) to light the path. The lights are seen as a triumph of good over evil, light over dark, happiness (the homecoming) over sadness (the banishment).
Day 4 - New Year's Day The new cycle of days now starts with Bestu Varush or New Year’s Day. Everybody greets each other with good wishes and a happy new year, 'Saal Mubarak’. The young bow down and touch the feet of their elders to gain blessings. Money or gifts of clothes are also given. At the temples 56 different foods are offered to the deities, this is known as Annakut Darshan, the food is blessed and offered as prashad to the people who come to worship at the temple and to the poor and needy.
Day 5 - Bhai Bhij or Bhai Duuj Sisters call their brothers and his family to their homes for a meal. Brothers normally take a gift or leave money under their plates when they have finished their meal. Traditionally this was so that the brother could check that all was well with his sister in her marital home.
Celebration in Nepal - Tihar (Dipawali)
The Nepali festival Tihar is also known by many names such as Dipawali or Bhai Tika or Laxmi Puja or as a festival of lights. It is a five-days festival, which comes soon after the Dashain Festival, and Tihar is all about worshiping of different animals such as crow, dog, cow, and worshiping of the Hindu Goddess of Fortune or Wealth (Goddess Laxmi), and cooking great meals at home, brothers and sisters shopping for gifts, flying kites, decorating homes and streets, playing cards with friends, resting and relaxing, and finally ending the festival with an exchange of a special temporary mark on forehead (tika in Nepali). The last day of the festival is known as Tika day or popularly known as Bhai Tika day (Bhai in Nepali means Brother). To sum up Tihar festival, Tihar is the festival when sisters wish a long life to their brothers (Bhai)
Days of Celebrations (Nepal)
Tihar Day 1 - Kag Tihar - worshiping of crows - feed them and keep them happy
Tihar Day 2 - Kukur Tihar - worshiping of dogs - the protector of our homes
Tihar Day 3 - Cow Tika - worshiping of cows
Tihar Day 3 - Laxmi Puja - worshiping of Fortune Goddess
Tihar Day 3 - Tihar Songs: Bhailini - girls sing traditional songs
Tihar Day 4 - Various Puja and Tihar Song: Deusi - boys sing Deusi, a popular Tihar song
Tihar Day 4 - Tihar Songs: Deusi - Pujas and singing Tihar's special song
Tihar Day 5 - Tika Day (Final Day) - tika for a long life!
Festival Contents (Nepal)
Tihar and Flower Garland Flower Garland (also known as necklace of Flowers or flower leis) is called Malla in Nepali, which is widely used in Tihar festival for home decoration and also to put around brothers and sisters neck. During Tihar, open markets are literally gardens packed with sensational flowers and aroma. Brothers and Sisters often save their flower garland as a souvenir.
Tihar and Lights and Candles Tihar is a time of candlelight, tinsel decoration and festive colored sweets, and more often this festival is also known by the name `Festival of Lights'. Tihar is probably the best festival of all due to its short holiday period yet packed with much excitement unlike other Nepali festivals
Tihar and Rani Pokharai (Pond) Rani Pokhara is located at the center of Kathmandu. This famous pond has a small holy temple located at the center. The compound's door is locked all year around except on the day of Bhai Tika. Those who do not have sisters enter the temple to receive tika from priets.
Tihar and Holidays Although Tihar is of five days festival, only 3 days are the official holidays except for schools and colleges. The official holidays are 3rd day of Tihar (Laxmi Puja), Fourth Day of Tihar(Govardha Puja) and the Final Day: 5th Day of Tihar(Tika Day)
Tihar and Cooking Sisters prepare unique Nepali meal at home for brothers. This includes making of the famous Nepali bread known as Nepali Roti or Sel or Sel Roti (as two words together).
Tihar and Shopping (Tihar and Sagun) Shopping of cooking items such as oil, butter, clothes for brothers and sisters, and sweets. In city, sisters shop for dried fruit products such as cashew, almonds, and fresh fruits in large amount while in villages sisters prepare home-made sweets and breads. The mixture of dried fruits along with sweets and candies are packed usually in a plastic bag, this package is known as `Sagun', This single brand is the most popular shopping item of the season, and you can see it everywhere in open markets. Sagun is given to brothers by sisters on the Tika Day, and in return, brothers give sisters gifts such as new clothes and/or money.