What is Diwali or Deepavali?

What is it?

Diwali, or Deepawali, is India’s biggest and most important holiday of the year.

Diwali is a 5-day holiday celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, and some Buddhists.

The festival gets its name from the row (avali) of clay lamps (deepa) that Indians light outside their homes to symbolize the inner light that protects from spiritual darkness.

It is referred to often as the Indian festival of lights, usually lasting five days and celebrated during the Hindu Lunisolar month Kartika (between mid-October and mid-November).

One of the most popular festivals of Hinduism, Diwali symbolizes the spiritual “victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance”.

The main day of the festival of Diwali (the day of Lakshmi puja) is an official holiday in Fiji, Guyana, India, Malaysia (except Sarawak), Mauritius, Myanmar, Nepal, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago.

The festival is celebrated by millions across the world.

(Featured image – Photo by Udayaditya Barua on Unsplash


When is it?

In 2020 Diwali/Deepavali is on Saturday, November 14th.

In 2021, it will be on Thursday, November 4th.

In 2022, it will be on October 24th.

Click to find the date for the current year (if you are from the future 😉 )

Why is it on a different date each year?

Diwali falls in either October or November each year, depending on the cycle of the moon. It’s observed on the 15th day of Kartik, the holiest month in the Hindu lunar calendar. (Source)

What does Diwali or Deepavali mean?

Young Children light diyas and arrange them for Diwali or Deepavali evening

The word Diwali comes from the Sanskrit word Deepavali, meaning “rows of lighted lamps”. (Deepa – Light/lamp Avali – row)

How is it celebrated?

How is it celebrated? National Geographic Video

Diwali is part of a five-day festival celebrated with music, lights, fireworks and traditional sweets.

A woman prepares the front of the home to welcome the Goddess of Prosperity (Photo by Sandeep Kr Yadav on Unsplash )

Many prepare for the festival by cleaning and decorating their home, donning new clothes to take part in the family puja, in which prayers of devotion are offered to Lakshmi. (Source)

A BhooChakram – you light it and it spins around (Photo by Shridhar Dixit on Unsplash)
Sweets! (By Amila Tennakoon – Diwali Celebrations in Sri Lanka, CC BY 2.0, )

For some these days also coincide with harvest and new year celebrations, is a festival of new beginnings and the triumph of good over evil, and light over darkness. (Source)

Wait, it’s not just on one day? No. It is celebrated over 5 days.

Lord Dhanvantari
Lord Dhanvantari – God of Medicine – Ayurveda (By Dhanwantari4u – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, )

The first day (November 12, 2020) is known as Dhanteras, or Dhanatrayodashi. “Dhan” means wealth and “teras” refers to the 13th day of a lunar fortnight on the Hindu calendar.

Lord Dhanvantari, the Hindu god of medicine and an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, is said to have brought Ayurveda and the nectar of immortality to mankind on this day.

There are a number of temples in Kerala and Tamil Nadu dedicated to Dhanvantari and Ayurveda.

Goddess Lakshmi
Goddess Lakshmi – Goddess of Wealth and Prosperity (By Raja Ravi Varma – [1], [2], Public Domain,)

Legend also has it that Goddess Lakshmi was born from the churning of the ocean on this day, and she is welcomed with a special puja (ritual). She is the Goddess of Wealth and Prosperity.

Gold and other metals (including kitchen utensils) are traditionally purchased. People also gather to play cards and gamble, as it’s thought to be auspicious and will bring wealth throughout the year.

Goddess Durga Pooja (Photo by partho roy on Unsplash)

The second day (November 13, 2020) is known as Naraka Chaturdasi or Chhoti Diwali (small Diwali). “Naraka” means hell and “Chaturdashi” means 14th day of a lunar fortnight on the Hindu calendar.

Lord Sree Krishna Reveals his divine form to Arjuna (By Konddiah Raja, – Public Domain)

Goddess Kali and Lord Krishna are believed to have destroyed Narakasura on this day.

In 2020, Naraka Chaturdasi overlaps with Amavasya and falls on the same day, on November 14.

Lord Rama (By Unknown author – , Attribution )

One tradition links the festival to Ramayana, where Diwali is the day Rama, Sita, Lakshman and Hanuman reached Ayodhya after a period of 14 years in exile.

Ramayana Story in carvings – Temple Cave, Ellora in Maharashtra, India (By Jean-Pierre Dalbéra from Paris, France – Le Ramayana dans le temple de Kailasha (Ellora, Inde), CC BY 2.0)
Rama fights with Ravana – Angkor Wat, Cambodia (By Jean-Pierre Dalbéra from Paris, France – L’exposition “Angkor : la naissance d’un mythe” (musée Guimet), CC BY 2.0

Rama returns home triumphantly after Rama’s army of good defeated the Ravana‘s army of evil.

Goddess Lakshmi
Goddess Lakshmi – depicted in traditional Indian Style – Cambodia – Angkor Wat – Siem Reap (By Jean-Pierre Dalbéra from Paris, France – Lakshmi (Banteay Srei, Angkor), CC BY 2.0, )

The third day Lakshmi Pujan, Kali Puja (November 14, 2020) is the new moon day known as Amavasya. This darkest day of the month is the most significant day of the Diwali festival in north and west India. Goddess Lakshmi is worshiped on this day, with a special puja performed in the evening.

Goddess Kali (By Jonoikobangali – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0 )

Goddess Kali is also usually worshiped on this day in West Bengal, Odisha and Assam (although Kali Puja sometimes falls a day earlier depending on the lunar cycle). The south Indian Deepavali festival is also celebrated on this day in 2020.

The fourth day Annakut, Balipratipada (Padwa), Govardhan Puja (November 15, 2020) has various meanings across India.

Lord Krishna Holds up Goverdhana Mountain to protect people from the wrath of Lord Indra (Vietnam) – (By Daderot – Own work, CC0,)

In north India, Govardhan Puja is celebrated as the day when Lord Krishna defeated Indra, the King of the Gods and the God of thunder and rain. In Gujarat, it’s celebrated as the start of a new year.

Lord Vishnu – Claims all three worlds and sends Bali to Paataala – Carving in Cave Temple, Karnataka, India (By Ms Sarah Welch – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0 )

In Maharashtra, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, the victory of Lord Vishnu over King Bali is celebrated as Bali Pratipada or Bali Padyami.

In Gujarat, Annakut is the first day of the new year and celebrated through the purchase of essentials, or sabras (literally, “good things in life”), such as salt, offering prayers to Krishna and visiting temples.

The fifth day Bhai Duj, Bhau-Beej, Vishwakarma Puja (November 16, 2020) is known as Bhai Duj. It’s dedicated to celebrating sisters, in a similar way that Raksha Bandhan is dedicated to brothers. Brothers and sisters get together and share food, to honor the bond between them. 

(Source for the above)

Lord Vishwakarma the divine architect (By S. P. S. Buildings Structure Pvt Ltd – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons by IngerAlHaosului using CommonsHelper., Public Domain, )

The artisan Hindu and Sikh community celebrates the fourth day as the Vishwakarma puja day. Vishwakarma is the presiding Hindu deity for those in architecture, building, manufacturing, textile work and crafts trades. The looms, tools of trade, machines and workplaces are cleaned and prayers offered to these livelihood means. (Source)

Goddess Saraswati – By Raja Ravi Varma – , Public Domain,

Trade and merchant families and others also offer prayers to Goddess Saraswati, who embodies music, literature and learning and Kubera, who symbolizes book-keeping, treasury and wealth management.

In western states such as Gujarat, and certain northern Hindu communities of India, the festival of Diwali signifies the start of a new year and a new Financial year. (Source)


Diwali has a very special significance in Jainism.

It marks the anniversary of Nirvana (final release) or liberation of Mahavira‘s soul, the twenty fourth and last Jain Tirthankara of present cosmic age.

It is celebrated at the same time as the Hindu festival of Diwali. (Source)

Mahavira – (By Dayodaya – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0)

SikhismBandi Chhor Divas

Guru Hargobind (By Sikhi6999 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0)

For Sikhs, Diwali is particularly important because it celebrates the release from prison of the sixth guru, Guru Hargobind, and 52 other princes with him, in 1619.

Sikhs celebrated the return of Guru Hargobind by lighting the Golden Temple and this tradition continues today.Oct 20, 2011 (Source)

Newar Buddhists

This group from Nepal celebrate Diwali by praying to Goddess Lakshmi.


How old is Diwali?

Diwali, or Deepavali—is a festival of lights that stretches back more than 2,500 years. (Source)

What is the proper greeting for Diwali?

A simple ‘Happy Diwali’ or ‘Happy Deepavali’ will do the trick, but there are other Diwali wishes you can say to anyone celebrating the festival. A traditional Diwali greeting is to say ‘Wishing you a Diwali that brings happiness prosperity and joy to you and all your family. ‘

To greet someone in Hindi for Diwali it’s best to say ‘Diwali ki Shubhkamnayein’ or ‘Shubh Deepavali’. These both mean Happy Diwali. Meanwhile in Punjabi it would be ‘Tuhanu Diwali diyan boht both vadhaiyan’ and in Marathi ‘Shubh Diwali’ or ‘Diwalichya hard Shubhechha’. Deepavali Nalvazhthukal is the best way to greet someone in Tamil. (Source)

What are popular dishes for Diwali?

Well, it differs from region to region. Cuisines and customs vary from region to region as do the the staple diets. But, here goes.

There are so many so adding some links…

10 Diwali Foods to Try

20 Best Diwali Recipes

Need more?


Did someone say, BTW, what is curry?

Featured Photo by Siyuan on Unsplash

Article originally posted on umedesi.com posted with permission.