Diwali or Deepavali is the Hindu festival known as the festival of lights. It is one of the major Hindu festivals or perhaps the biggest one in terms of energy and participation. It’s a pan-Indian festival, which also involves the participation of non-Hindus. And Diwali 2021 celebrations promise to be one of high energy and passion as the is world slowly coming out of the grips of a deadly pandemic.

The term Deepavali or Diwali literally means ‘collection or row of lights’; derived from the Sanskrit words ‘deep’, which means lamp, and ‘avali’, which means a row or array. The use of clay lamps (diya or deep) is a salient feature of this festival. This Hindu festival of lights is known as Diwali in North India and Deepavali in South India. It symbolises the victory of righteousness and the lifting of spiritual darkness.

Diwali is undoubtedly the biggest Hindu festival in terms of zest and participation. In many places, it is a festival lasting four to five days, among which the third day is considered the main festival day. The Diwali celebrations can be witnessed all around India and in different parts of the world.

When is Diwali 2021 in India?

As per the Hindu calendar, Diwali is observed on Amavasya (New Moon Day) of the month of Kartik.

In 2021, it falls on November 4 all over the country.

The Amavasya Tithi begins on November 4 at 06:03 and ends on November 5 at 02:44.

Diwali 2021 Special days

Day 1, Dwadashi (November 2, Tuesday):

Dhanteras (Dhantrayodashi), Dhanvantari Trayodashi and Yama Deepam.

Day 2, Trayodashi (November 3, Wednesday):

Kali Chaudas and Hanuman Puja

Day 3, Chaturdashi/Amavasya (November 4, Thursday):

Diwali/Deepavali, Narak Chaturdashi, Lakshmi Puja, Kali Puja, Kedar Gauri Vrat, Chopda Puja, Sharda Puja etc.

Day 4, Pratipada (November 5, Friday):

Govardhan Puja/Annakut, Bali Pratipada, Dyuta Krida and Gujarati New Year

Day 5, Dwitiya (November 6, Saturday):

Bhai Dooj, Bhau Beej and Yama Dwitiya

Diwali Celebrations

The festival of lights ‘Diwali’ is an auspicious occasion celebrating the triumph of light over darkness, good over evil and hope over despair. Every year in October or November, millions of Hindus, Sikhs, and Jains across the world observe Diwali with five-day long festivities. It’s the most important holiday of the year in most parts of India.

The lighting of diyas is the salient feature of Diwali. The other observations include lighting fireworks, making Rangolis, preparing sweets, buying new clothes, organising get-togethers etc. On the night of Diwali, the houses, temples, streets, shops and offices get illuminated with an array of oil lamps. All these lights eliminate darkness, and the prayers and celebrations create an atmosphere of love, happiness, purity and compassion.

In many areas in India, Diwali is a festival lasting four to five days, the height of which is celebrated on the third day (Amavasya/New Moon day), coinciding with the darkest night of the year.

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First Day of Diwali: Trayodashi (13th lunar phase)

The first day of Diwali is celebrated as Dhanteras or Dhanatrayodashi, which is a festival of wealth. On this day, people clean their houses, lay floor decorations such as Rangoli, place diyas or tea lights on entryways and balconies and purchase kitchen utensils. The observations also include some pujas and rituals. The business people worship their treasuries, and Ayurvedic practitioners worship Dhanvantari deity on this day.

Second Day of Diwali: Chaturdashi (14th lunar phase)

This day is known as Naraka Chaturdashi, which is believed to be the day in which Sri Krishna slew the evil demon Narakasur. In North India, this day is known as Choti Diwali (small Diwali), the day before the main celebrations. The observations of this day include preparing sweets and exchanging them with the dear ones and decorating floors with Rangolis. In South India, the major Deepavali celebrations are observed on this night.

Third Day of Diwali: Amavasya (New Moon)

The major Diwali celebrations take place on this day in most parts of India – western, central, eastern, and northern regions. The lighting of diyas, fireworks display, exchange of sweets, get-togethers and all other celebrations are the highest on this night which is also the darkest night of the year. Lakshmi Puja, or worship of Goddess Lakshmi, is a major ritual observed on this day.

Fourth day of Diwali: Pratipada (the day after the New Moon)

This day is celebrated in different names – Govardhan Puja/Annakut, Diwali Padva or Bali Pratipada, Dyuta Krida and Gujarati New Year etc. The celebration Bali Pratipada symbolises God Vishnu’s conquest over the demon king Bali. Govardhan Puja or Annakut commemorates Krishna’s advice to the villagers of Gokul to worship Mount Govardhan and the subsequent events.

Fifth day of Diwali: Dwitiya (second day after the New Moon)

The last day of Diwali is observed as Bhai Dooj. This is the second day of the bright fortnight and is dedicated to celebrating the brother-sister relationship. Traditionally, brothers gift their sisters, who honour them, with special rituals and sweets. For some Hindu-Sikh craftsmen communities, this is the day for Vishwakarma Puja.

Astrological significance of Diwali 2021 

The festival of Diwali falls during the autumn season in the northern hemisphere. It is celebrated on the Amavasya (New Moon Day) of the Hindu lunisolar month Kartik/Kartika, which in the Gregorian calendar falls between mid-October and mid-November.

The festival of lights Diwali is unique in the fact that it is celebrated on the darkest night of the year. The Amavasya of the Kartik/Kartika month coincides with the darkest night in the Hindu lunisolar calendar.

The 2021 Diwali falls on Thursday, November 4. That night witnesses the celebration of the victory of light over darkness which is symbolic of the victory of knowledge over ignorance, good over evil and purity over impurity.

Important features of Diwali 2021 celebrations

Diwali is the most beautiful and exciting Indian festival. The night of Diwali illuminates every nook and corner of the country, and an air of happiness fills everyone’s mind. People celebrate this festival mainly with oil lamps and varieties of fireworks. On the night of Diwali, all houses, temples, streets, shops and offices are illuminated with a collection of oil lamps. Decorating floors with Rangoli, preparing sweets, buying new clothes, organising get-togethers and fairs etc., are also parts of Diwali celebrations. All these illuminations and merrymakings signify the victory of divine forces over the wicked.

Diwali 2021, like the previous year, has to be celebrated following the Covid 19 protocols. Last year, the restrictions imposed by Covid 19 protocols largely affected the energy and fervour of the festival. These restrictions prevent people from gathering and celebrating in mass. This year, as many people have got vaccinated, the scope for celebrations is more. However, we should keep in mind that Diwali symbolises the victory of good over evil, and, as a true devotees and responsible citizens, it is our duty to make celebrations, obeying the Covid protocols. Taking hygiene precautions and maintaining social distancing are important in the 2021 Diwali celebrations.

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The beliefs/legends behind Diwali

The festival of Diwali falls on the autumn harvest time and is associated with a variety of Hindu deities and traditions. These differences in tradition could be attributed to the various local autumn harvest traditions combined into one pan-Indian festival with a common significance. The myths and legends behind this festival vary with various regions across India, yet all share the common spiritual significance ‘knowledge/good wins over ignorance/evil’.

The most common legend behind Diwali is associated with the epic Ramayana.  It is believed that Diwali is the day on which Rama, Sita, Lakshmana and Hanuman reached Ayodhya after their exile and the victory over Ravana.

Diwali is also an occasion to worship Goddess Lakshmi –the deity of wealth and affluence. There are some myths connecting Goddess Lakshmi to Diwali.  Some people consider it a celebration of her birth from the Samudra Manthan (churning of the cosmic ocean of milk), while some others believe it as the day of the marriage of Lakshmi to Lord Vishnu.

As Diwali is the festival indicating the victory of good over evil and wisdom over ignorance, some Hindus associate this festival with Goddess Durga or her fierce avatar Kali and with Lord Ganesha – the elephant-headed god of wisdom and auspiciousness.

For some Hindus in the Braj region in northern India, parts of Assam in eastern India, and Tamil and Telugu communities in southern India, Deepavali is the day God Krishna overcame and destroyed the demon king Narakasura. To commemorate this event, devotees in these regions crush a bitter fruit underfoot, which is symbolic of destroying the demon or evil. After that, they apply a mix of ‘kumkum or vermillion and oil’ on their foreheads and take ritual oil baths.

Another myth associated with Diwali is that it is the day on which King Bali returns from the nether world. When Vamana (the avatar of Vishnu) pushed him into the nether world, the lord gave him the lamp of knowledge to light up the dark underworld. The lord also gave him a blessing that he would return to his people once a year to light millions of lamps from this one lamp so that on the dark new moonlight of Diwali, the blinding darkness of ignorance, laziness, greed, jealousy, lust, and ego would be dispelled.

What are the significances of the Diwali celebrations?

The night of Diwali illuminates every corner of India and creates an air of happiness and togetherness. Yet, the true spirit of the festival is deeper than it seems. It is an occasion to kindle the light of wisdom and goodness in our minds. The lamps lit on this day are also meant to communicate a great truth which is ‘when the darkness within us is expelled through the light of wisdom; the good in us wins over the evil’.  Every myth associated with Deepavali also emphasises this fact.

Diwali is also a festival that helps to strengthen family and social relationships. People organise family and social get-togethers on this occasion and celebrate together with love, joy, friendliness and unity. There is a practice of forgetting and forgiving the past wrong deeds of others too. Diwali unites people from every corner, religion and caste. This is an occasion that lets people mingle about in joy and embrace one another.

Diwali celebrations refresh the minds and rejuvenate the souls. It gives the strength and zeal to every individual to make positive changes in life and to be more ethical and efficient. It provides goodwill for the rest of the year, thus promising success and prosperity.

There is a tradition of waking up during the Brahmamuhurta (at 4 am, or 1 1/2 hours before sunrise) on the day of Deepavali. This practice has great significance from the perspectives of health, discipline, efficiency and spiritual advancement. Ancient Indian sages might have instituted such customs to let their descendants realise the benefits.

Thus, all the Diwali customs have some higher purposes. Even the lighting of lamps and fireworks has scientific reasons. Diwali befalls on a period after the monsoon. The fumes produced by the lamps and fireworks will help in repelling the insects, including mosquitoes which would otherwise come in plenty at that time.

Nowadays, Diwali has merely turned into an event for pompous celebrations, causing air and noise pollutions. The efforts for spiritual advancement can be rarely seen. The lights of Diwali should illuminate our inner selves. With every lamp we light, we should kindle the good qualities in us and refine ourselves, destroying all the dark thoughts.

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Significance of Diwali 2021 in the context of COVID-19 pandemic

This year too, Diwali comes amid the Covid-19 pandemic that continues to loom large over the nations. But the good news is that we are slowly getting a grip over it. So, every one of us celebrating Diwali has to be a bearer of the light aimed at wiping out this pandemic. To overcome this unprecedented crisis, light has to outshine darkness, and knowledge has to prevail over ignorance.

Diwali signifies the victory of goodness and wisdom over darkness, evil and ignorance. And knowledge is the most potent weapon we have in our fight against this pandemic. We know what to do to keep Corona away, and we should implement it thoroughly during our festivities.  We should wear masks, maintain hygiene, ensure social distance, and keep our homes and public places clean.

Let the light of Diwali 2021 be the light that outshines the dark clouds of Covid-19. As goodness ultimately triumphs over evil, we humans too will be victorious in our battle against the Covid-19 virus. On this occasion of Deepavali 2021, let’s ensure to be by the side of good and promise to keep the true meaning of the festival, that is, knowledge will prevail over ignorance, and goodness will overcome evil, and purity will keep out impurity.

Happy Diwali!

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