Photo Credit: Geof Wilson

Diwali, also known as Devali or Deepawali, is one of the most important religious holidays in India. Celebrated by practitioners of Hinduism, Jainism and Sikhism, the festival has deep meaning not only for individuals across the subcontinent, but for Indians all across the globe, as well. According to the University of California at Los Angeles, Diwali is known colloquially as “the festival of lights.” The religious occasion has gained this nickname as a result of the large number of oil lamps that Indians who celebrate the event place around their homes, gardens and places of business. Although this practice is still common in rural areas today, many practitioners living outside of India or in urban areas substitute candles for the lamps, as they are easier to come by and are disposable.

The celebration of Diwali commemorates the return of Lord Rama, the seventh avatar of the god Vishnu, from his exile. Along with Sita, his wife, and Lakshmana, his brother and closest companion, this important figure in the Hindu religion was banished from his kingdom for a total of 14 years. The group’s return coincides with Rama’s defeat of Ravana, a demon king with 10 heads. Indians celebrate this occasion because it represents the triumph of good over evil.

This year, Diwali begins on October 24, during the new moon. The first day of the holiday is called Dhan Teras, a phrase that is loosely translated to “the festival of wealth.” This occasion is considered to be joyous, and is often regarded as one of the busiest Indian shopping days of the year. Following Dhan Tera, the festival then continues for five additional days, each of which commemorates one of six important religious stories of Diwali. The final day of the holiday called Yama Dvitiya, is observed as a celebration of love between brothers and sisters.

Although most Indian families spend Diwali with their loved ones, there are certainly many events going on in the major cities to celebrate the festival. For instance, this year in Delhi, the Blind Relief Association will host a huge Diwali Bazaar, while individuals in Mumbai can choose between attending a special jewelery making class or large fireworks display. Other similar events are scheduled for cities all over the subcontinent.