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Diwali Overview

Diwali is the largest Indian festival. It is celebrated over five days. The pinnacle of the celebration occurs on the night of the new moon which falls anywhere between mid-October to mid-November. Diwali festivities can include fireworks, prayer ceremonies, festive light displays, diyas (earthen lamps or candles), and an exchange of sweets and gifts between family and friends. Diwali or Deepavali (Sanskrit meaning ‘row of lamps’) is known as “the festival of lights”. Lit diyas are displayed to represent good over evil, while fireworks are lit to ward off evil spirits. With these traditions in place, Lakshmi, the Hindu Goddess of wealth, is welcomed. To welcome her properly, entrance ways are decorated by colourful rangoli designs, homes are cleaned, new items are bought, prayer ceremonies are performed, sweets and gifts are exchanged, diyas are lit, and beautiful lights are hung to decorate both homes and businesses.

Diwali Festival

An elegant display of diyas.

Diwali and the Sikhs

Sikhs celebrate Diwali to commemorate the release of the sixth Guru, Guru Hargobind Singh, in October of 1619. Guru Hargobing Singh, now known as Bandi Chhorh Divas (deliverer from prison), was sent to prison along with 52 rajas (kings) who were held as political prisoners. Upon his release, Guru Hargobind Singh negotiated that anyone who could hold onto his coat should be allowed to go free as well. His captures agreed. Guru Hargobing Singh managed to free all 52 raja’s by cutting the back of his coat into segments or coat tails. Each prisoner was then able to hold on to his coat and walk with him to freedom. The Guru returned to Harmander Sahib (The Golden Temple) to find hundreds of diyas lit to celebrate his homecoming. Since then, Diwali is celebrated in gurdwaras around the world with Akhand Paaths and lighting numerous diyas on the gurdwara grounds. Diwali is the second largest festival celebrated by the Sikhs, next to Vasaikhi.

Diwali in North America

In North America, houses are decorated with diyas, as well as (Christmas) lights. Families and friends may have gatherings in their homes, community halls, or banquet facilities to celebrate Diwali. Cultural events are organized by local Indians and/or Sikhs where Diwali is celebrated to bridge cross-cultural relations and showcase dance, art, and culture. The day of Diwali is filled with exchanges of sweets and snacks between family and friends and the evening festivities often include fireworks.

Diwali and Card Playing

Playing cards is a very popular past time during Diwali, especially in the urban centers of India. Gambling during Diwali stems from the Hindu belief that while the Goddess Parvati played dice with her husband, Shiva, she declared anyone who played that night would prosper through the entire year. It is also said that the Hindu Goddess of Wealth, Lakshmi, ensures her goodwill and will smiles upon the player. Theen Pathi (Flash) or Rummy are the main card games played.

Celebrating Diwali

Materials Required:

  • Boxed Sweets for your family and friends
  • Diyas (earthen lamps available at local Indian grocers)
  • Fireworks

Time of Day:

  • Diwali night (after dark)

What Can Be Done

  1. Host an evening with dinner, dancing, fireworks at your home. Invite close family and friends
  2. Attend a local community event (musical or cultural)
  3. Host or attend a Diwali card party (Teen Pathi)

Auntyji’s Approach

Bachai lokh, your Auntyji recommends celebrating Diwali with your close family and friends by hosting a dinner with good food, a beautifully decorated table of traditional Indian sweets, and your home décor filled with colourful lights. If permitted by your local community, have a fireworks display in your front yard. This is always a crowd pleaser and the kids will love it.

If you have grade school going children, it would be wonderful for your child introduce Diwali to his/her classroom. Have your child talk about Diwali and then give each student a diya (costs pennies). Kids will love it.

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