Diwali, also fondly called the Festival of Lights, is a traditional Indian festival where people enjoy lighting up their homes and surroundings with beautiful lighting. Diwali lighting is often in the form of earthen lamps, candles, and, more recently, modern lights, including LED string lights, rice lights, and fairy lights, often in warm white or a kaleidoscope of color.
The Diwali festival is celebrated each year around October or November. Although typically seen as a Hindu festival, it is celebrated by people from different religions.
What is Diwali, or the Festival of Lights?
Diwali is also sometimes called Deepavali. Dipavali in Sanskrit means “row of lights.” True to its name, Diwali is celebrated by lighting lamps and setting off fireworks. For Hindus, the lights represent the victory of light over dark, wisdom over ignorance, and the inner light that protects one from spiritual darkness.
Diwali is also celebrated in Jainism, where it represents the spiritual awakening (Moksha or Nirvana) of Lord Mahavira. In Sikhism, it marks the day Guru Hargobind Ji obtained freedom from imprisonment. Buddhists in India also celebrate Diwali.
The dates (yes, there are five days of festivities) for Diwali celebrations change each year based on the moon’s cycles. Usually, it is celebrated between October and November each year on the evening of the new moon. This is also the 15th day of the Kartik month—which is considered the holiest month of the Hindu calendar.
The significance of Diwali
The significance of the way it’s slightly different depending on the region. In Northern India, Diwali is celebrated in remembrance of Lords Rama and Sita. One story tells of his return to Ayodhya after spending 14 years in exile in the forest. In this version of the story, Lord Rama returned on the night of the new moon, and people lit thousands of lamps to welcome him home. In a different story, Lord Rama returned after he defeated King Ravana.
People from Western India celebrate Diwali as the beginning of a new year. During these celebrations, people worship the Hindu goddess Lakshmi—the goddess of wealth and prosperity. Lamps are lit to light goddess Lakshmi’s way to people’s homes, bringing them wealth in the new year. The celebrations in this part of the country also celebrate the day that Lord Vishnu banished King Bali to the underworld.
On the other side of the country, Diwali is celebrated as Kali Puja. Here the celebrations are dedicated to the goddess Kali—the Hindu goddess of feminine power, death, and rebirth.
South India (and people from Nepal) celebrate Diwali as the day when Krishna slew the demon Narakasura.
Mostly, the lighting of the lamps creates light that enables us to see—in the physical as well as the spiritual world. The decorative lights of Diwali are quite literally the light that banishes the darkness.
How is Diwali most commonly celebrated?
The most common way to celebrate Diwali is to light lamps. This tradition is followed throughout India. It’s also accompanied by different celebrations depending on which part of the country you are from.
The Diwali festivities last five days. On the first day, you would clean your home and shop for metallic kitchen utensils, appliances, and gold—all to welcome good luck.
Clay lamps called diyas are lit on the second day. On this day, people create beautiful designs called rangoli on the floor with colored sand, rice flour, flower petals, and powers. These intricate patterns are created at the door to welcome the gods and bring good fortune.
Day three is the main day of Diwali when families gather to offer prayers to goddess Laxmi and Lord Ganesh (god of good fortune and wisdom). Afterward, people gather to eat and enjoy fireworks displays.
Diwali’s fourth day is considered the first day of the new year. People visit their relatives and exchange gifts and good wishes for the coming year. On this day, people pay tribute to the tools they need to do their jobs to encourage good fortune in the coming year.
Brothers visit their married sisters on day five, where they enjoy another meal. The sisters pray for their brothers and are given gifts and sweet meats.
What are Diyas?
Diyas are the oil lamps traditionally used as part of Diwali celebrations. They are made from clay and hold ghee or vegetable oil and a cotton wick. These clay lamps are usually used as temporary decorations for special occasions like festivals. However, Diyas made from brass can be permanent fixtures in homes and places of worship.
One of the wonderful things about Diwali is that the decorations are so eclectic. Decorations, including Diyas and other lights, can be intricately designed and decorated, colorful, plain, big, or small. Perhaps the only requirement is that they should be in abundance.
What are some other decor ideas for Diwali?
Diwali is all about lights, so include plenty of them. Then, add colorful rangoli designs. You don’t need to make a traditional rangoli. Instead, look out for pre-made decorative rangolis to use as Diwali decorations.
Marigolds are the traditional Diwali flower, so include them in your Diwali decoration ideas. These bright yellow and orange flowers will add some cheer and tradition to your Diwali celebrations. They also fit in well with other fall decorations.
Different types of lights and decorations to celebrate Diwali
You don’t need to use oil lamps to celebrate Diwali. Candles can create a beautiful, festive atmosphere too. So can LED lights, string lights, and colorful paper lanterns.
LED lights come in an array of different styles. Some even mimic traditional diyas. They are eco-friendly, smoke-free, last long, and do not pose a fire hazard.
LED strip lights or permanent outdoor lights (like what JellyFish Lighting offers) can quickly add many bright colors to your Diwali celebrations. LED string lights casting warm white light can add a cozy atmosphere to patios and outdoor spaces.
Fairy lights or rice lights are great to use indoors. They add a touch of sparkle to strategic spaces, bringing light to dark corners.
Sparklers make an excellent alternative (or addition) to fireworks. As do falling LED lights. These lights can be hung on your house or in trees. The multi-colored lights seem to fall or drop—giving the illusion of fireworks.
The lighted lamps of the Diwali festival are more than just decorative items. The warm white and colorful glow of earthen lamps and modern lighting aren’t mere decorations. They represent the banishment of darkness and negativity and usher in prosperity and good fortune for the new year. This Hindu festival embraces the flickering of flames, the twinkling of lights, and the excitement that always comes along with fireworks.