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Diwali, the Festival of Lights: Origins & Celebratory Rituals

Oct 18, 2022

Tradition

Diwali or Deepavali, an alternate pronunciation of Diwali in the Indian community, is often revered as the Festival of Lights, signifying victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance. Observed by billions across India and its diaspora, Diwali celebrates the strength found in overcoming darkness and embracing the warmth found in the light.

Diwali is celebrated annually, often taking place sometime between October and November, and is usually observed for five days. The exact dates of this holiday vary from year-to-year because they are determined by the Hindu calendar, a lunar calendar based on the cycles of the moon's phases, with the main celebration taking place on the day of the new moon. This year Diwali falls on October 24th.

Origins of Diwali

Diwali’s ancient roots originate from the Indian subcontinent. Its religious and historical foundations are found in Hinduism but the holiday is observed by Sikhs, Jains, and Buddhists as well. In Hinduism alone, there are many versions of the stories behind Diwali and these stories vary across different geographic regions. Most commonly, these epic tales of victory are told through the triumphant incarnations of the Hindu God Vishnu—the preserver of the universe who restores the balance of good and evil.

North India

In North India, Diwali celebrates Prince Rama’s honorable return to the city of Ayodhya. After 14 years of exile by his plotting stepmother, Prince Rama comes back after rescuing his wife Sita, an incarnation of the Goddess Lakshmi, who was kidnapped by the demon King Ravana.

South India

In South India, Diwali celebrates the victory of Lord Krishna over the demon King Narakasura, who attacked Devaloka and imprisoned 16,000 women in his palace. They were freed by Lord Krishna in his battle with the demon king.

Western India

In Western India, the festival observes Lord Vishnu’s banishment of King Bali, or Mahabali, to the underworld because his immense power became a threat to the gods.

Other religious origin stories

Other religions in India have their own Diwali narratives. For Sikhs, Diwali celebrates the release of the 17th-century guru Hargobind after 12 years of imprisonment by the Mughal emperor Jahangir. Jains observe Diwali as the day that Lord Mahavira, the last of the great Jain teachers, reached nirvana. Buddhists celebrate Diwali as the day Hindu Emperor Ashoka, who ruled in the third century B.C., converted to Buddhism.

No matter which Diwali story is honored, these celebrations are united in the same sentiment: a day of new beginnings & victory of light over darkness.

How is Diwali celebrated?

Cleansing your surroundings

It is custom to clean your house and get rid of unwanted things before Diwali. It is believed that the Goddess Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity, will grace homes that are cleansed of the unclean and are well-decorated. The Lakshmi puja, a prayer offered to the goddess, is also celebrated on the third day of Diwali which falls on October 24th this year.

Bathing in oil

Taking an oil bath on Diwali is highly auspicious as it is said to remove bad luck and promote health and prosperity. This bathing ritual takes place before sunrise, symbolizing new beginnings and a prosperous year to come. According to Hindu mythology, goddess Lakshmi is said to have hidden behind a sesame tree which is why sesame oil is commonly used for this Diwali tradition. Sesame oil is also known to help reduce stress, improve sleep, and nourish the bones, muscles, and joints which makes it a wonderful oil to use for Abhyanga, a warm oil body massage.

Wearing new clothing

The act of adorning oneself with new clothing is also another way of respecting the deities of Diwali. Saris, lehengas and kurtas are all traditionally worn pieces during the celebration, however, new western wear like dresses and pantsuits are also common, especially across the Indian diaspora.

The lighting of diyas and fireworks

Diyas, which are small clay lamps, are a big reason why Diwali is known as the Festival of Lights. Diyas are used to decorate the exterior and interior of homes, and are traditionally lit by a cotton or cloth wick soaked in ghee or oil. When the fire is lit darkness flees and a bright glow is emitted, symbolizing the presence of enlightenment, prosperity, knowledge, and wisdom. These lamps can also be ornate with detailed carvings and colorful paint. The lighting of fireworks carries a similar significance, adding to the overall festive mood of the celebration.

Embracing community

The spirit of Diwali is embraced when friends and family honor the traditions together. This takes place in many different forms across the globe such as communities coming together to put on performances, eat rich cultural foods, and observing all the ancient customs that give the celebration its significance.

Honoring traditions and rituals at AAVRANI

Rituals and traditions are at the foundation of AAVRANI. Nourishing a life through this lens creates mindfulness and intentionality, overall nurturing internal peace through a mind-body connection. Our skincare products are created to support the lasting rituals and traditions you may already have in your life, or help create new ones. The ancient customs of Ayurveda are at the root of our skincare and are influenced by age-old ceremonial practices.

Ready to turn your skincare routine into an intentional ritual? Check out out Ayurvedic Beauty Ritual Discovery Set, consisting of our, grounding skincare steps that work together to achieve a radiant glow.

 

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