What is Diwali?

The word Diwali comes from the Sanskrit word Deepavali.

Deepa means "light" and Avali means "row".

So Deepavali means "a row of lights".

Diwali is the Festival of Lights.

Illumination is a major theme of this festival.


What is the significance of Diwali?

The festival signifies the triumph of light over darkness, victory of good over evil.


Highlights of the celebration


When is Diwali celebrated?

On the 15th day of the dark fortnight of the Hindu month of Kartik (October / November) which is a New Moon day (Amavasya)


History and mythlogy

The full celebration extends over five days:

dhan means "wealth" - especially auspicious day for the rich mercantile community of western India


Sixteen-year old son of King Hima was doomed to die on the 4th day of his marriage according to his horoscope. On that particular day his young wife did not let him sleep. She kept on telling stories and singing songs. She also piled up all the ornaments and gold and silver coins at the entrance to her husband’s chambers and lighted lamps all over the place. When Yam, the god of Death, arrived disguised as a serpent, he was blinded by the dazzle of lights and was unable to find his way into the prince’s chambers. He just lay atop the pile of ornaments and coins the whole night long listening to melodious singing, and in the morning he quietly slithered away. Thus the newly wed bride saved her husband. Ever since then, on that day, lamps are kept burning throughout the night in reverence to Yam, the god of Death.



In the South it is customary to wake up before sunrise on this day and to take an oil bath, break a bitter fruit representing the head of the demon-king Narakasura and apply a mixture of kumkum in oil (representing the demon’s blood) on the forehead


The oppressive demon-king Narakasura, ruler of Praagiyotishapura (Assam), became a menace to the gods, snatched away the magnificient earrings of Aditi, the Mother Goddess, and imprisoned sixteen thousand daughters of the gods and saints in his harem. On the day previous to Naraka-Chaturdashi, Lord Krishna destroyed Narakasura’s huge army, killed the demon-king, liberated the imprisoned damsels and recovered the precious earrings of Aditi. After his victory Lord Krishna smeared his forehead with the demon-king’s blood and, on his return home in the early hours of Narakachaturdashi, the womenfolk gave him a good bath and applied scented oil on his body.


Worship of Shri Maha Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth and Prosperity

Members of the business community open their new year’s account

Custom of gambling on this day


Lord Rama’s return to Ayodhya after slaying the demon-king Ravana of Lanka and after completing 14 years of exile. The people of Ayodhya lit up their homes with oil lamps and turned the night into a light festival.

Goddess Parvati played dice with her husband on this day and she decreed that whoever gambled on Diwali day would prosper throughout the following year


Govardhan-Puja is performed in the North

People in Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar build cowdung hillocks, decorate them and worship them

Annakoot - means "mountain of food" – especially in Mathura and Nathadwara – delicious sweets are piled up in the form of a mountain as bhog before the deities in the temple and the devotees then take prasad from the Mountain of Food

Considered the most auspicious day to start a new venture

Wife puts red tilak on husband’s forehead, garlands him and offers aarti for him, and he reciprocates by giving her a gift


(1)When Lord Indra, in a rage, sent a deluge to submerge Gokul, Lord Krishna saved Gokul by lifting up and holding the Govardhan mountain, which is in Braj near Mathura, over the people as an umbrella

(2) King Bali, the ruler of Patala (the netherworld) had become a threat to the gods. Lord Vishnu came disguised as a dwarf, Vamana, who begged King Bali to give him as much land as he could cover in three steps. His wish was granted. The dwarf immediately transformed back into the form of Lord Vishnu. With his first step Lord Vishnu covered the entire earth and with his second step the skies. With his third step placed on King Bali’s head Lord Vishnu pushed the king down into the underworld, but not before rewarding him with the lamp of knowledge and giving him permission to return to earth once a year to light millions of lamps to dispel darkness and ignorance.


This day is observed as a symbol of love between brothers and sisters. The brother goes to the sister’s house to celebrate this day


Yamraj, the God of Death, visited his sister Yami on this particular day. Yami put the tilak on her brother’s forehead, garlanded him and fed him with special dishes. When parting they presented each other with gifts