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 is a festival for all—every Hindu around the world and even non-Hindus in India participate in its celebrations. The use of lamps to decorate is the main feature of this festival. The term Deepavali or Diwali meaning ‘collection or row of lights’ was derived from the Sanskrit words ‘deep’ which means lamp, lantern, or light, and ‘avail’ which means a row or array. During this celebration, houses, temples, shops, and offices are illuminated with a collection of oil lamps. People also celebrate this festival with a variety of fireworks.
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This year’s celebration is of particular significance. Covid 19 has made it difficult for people to gather and celebrate 2020 Diwali with the same fervor as earlier. With many restrictions in place, it has affected the energy and fervor that is usually seen around the time of Diwali. But, the celebrations can still continue by keeping in mind the fact that it is the fight of good over evil. Taking hygiene precautions and avoiding large gatherings are important factors of 2020 Deepavali. It is always better to avoid firecrackers even without Corona, but especially during this time, it is important to keep in mind the effect crackers have on our environment. Let us learn to celebrate our special days keeping in mind the hygiene protocols and social distancing.
The festival of lights is known as Diwali in Northern India and Deepavali in Southern India. The festival in many parts of India lasts for five days among which the third day is considered the main day. Diwali 2020 is an official holiday in India as well as in countries viz. Fiji, Guyana, Malaysia, Mauritius, Myanmar, Nepal, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago.
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When is Diwali 2020/Deepavali 2020?
November 14, Saturday
Lakshmi Puja Muhurat: 17:30:04 to 19:25:54
Duration: 1 Hour 55 Minute
Pradosh Kaal : 17:27:41 to 20:06:58
Vrishabha Kaal: 17:30:04 to 19:25:54
The significance of Diwali 2020
The day of Diwali falls during the autumn in the northern hemisphere (spring in the southern hemisphere). It is celebrated on the Amavasya (New Moon Day) of the Hindu lunisolar month Kartika, which in the Gregorian calendar falls between mid-October and mid-November. The Amavasya or 15th day of the Kartika month also coincides with the darkest night in the Hindu lunisolar calendar. The ‘festival of lights’ is unique in the fact that it is celebrated at night. The 2020 Diwali falls on Saturday, November 14. The Deepavali festival is a 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.
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 or legends behind Deepavali vary with various regions across India, yet all share a common spiritual significance that focuses on knowledge and righteousness. Following are some of those myths that simply remind us that ‘good ultimately wins over evil’.
One of the legends 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.
Some of the myths are associated with Lakshmi—the goddess of wealth and affluence. 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.
Celebrations of 2020 Diwali
2020 Diwali Day 1 – Dhantrayodashi 13 November 2020
In many areas, 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 lunar month.
The first day of Diwali (Trayodashi) is known as Dhanteras or Dhanatrayodashi which is regarded as a festival of wealth. The day marks the beginning of the celebrations with people cleaning their houses and laying floor decorations such as Rangoli. Business people worship their treasuries on this day and Ayurvedic practitioners (Vaidyas) worship Dhanvantari deity on this day.
The second day of Diwali is known as Naraka Chaturdashi which is believed to be the day in which Sri Krishna slew the evil demon Narakasur. This day is known as Choti Diwali (small Diwali) in North India, the day before the main celebrations; while, in South India, the major Deepavali celebrations are observed on this Chaturdasi night.
On the third day, Amavasya is the day for major Diwali celebrations for most parts of India. Rituals worshipping Goddess Lakshmi are observed on this day. In the western, central, eastern, and northern regions of India, major Diwali celebrations are observed on this day and the celebrations are highest at night which is the darkest night of the month.
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The fourth day, the day after the Amavasya (New Moon), is known as Diwali Padva or Balipratipada. It is the first day of the bright fortnight and is celebrated to symbolize god Vishnu’s conquest over the demon king Bali. This day is also dedicated to celebrating the bond between husband and wife.
The fifth and the last day of Diwali is observed as Bhai Dooj (Bhaubij or Yamadwitiya). This is the second day of the bright fortnight and is dedicated to celebrating a brother-sister relationship. Also, for some Hindu-Sikh craftsmen communities, this is the day for Vishwakarma Puja.
Diwali 2020 Day 2 – Narak Chaturdashi 14 November 2020
Deepavali 2020 Day 3 – Lakshmi Puja 14 November 2020
2020 Deepavali Day 4 – Govardhan Puja 15 November 2020
Diwali 2020 Day 5 – Bhaiya Dooj 16 November 2020
What are the Significance of the Diwali 2020 celebrations?
Diwali is the festival of lights and lighting the oil lamps is a salient feature of these celebrations. The lamps lit on this day are not just to decorate homes but are also meant to communicate a great truth about life which is ‘when the darkness within us is expelled through the light of wisdom; the good in us wins over the evil’. Every story or myth behind Deepavali emphasizes this fact – the victory of good over evil. It is an occasion to kindle the light of wisdom/goodness in our hearts.
Diwali values family and social relationships and helps to strengthen these bonds. There is a practice of forgetting and forgiving the past wrongs deeds of others and organizing family and social get-togethers. The days of Diwali are always marked by an air of love, joy, friendliness, and unity. However, this year Diwali comes amid a global pandemic that continues to loom large over the nation and humankind in general.
On the day of Deepavali, people would wake up during the Brahmamuhurta (at 4 am, or 1 1/2 hours before sunrise) which is a practice having great significance from the perspectives of health, discipline, efficiency, and spiritual advancement. Ancient sages might have instituted this Deepawali custom to let their descendants realize its benefits and make it a habit.
Thus, all Diwali customs and practices have some higher purposes and scientific significance. In a way, it represents the struggle humankind is presently engaged in, against the pandemic that’s still raging across the planet. To overcome this unprecedented crisis, this invisible virus that’s threatening the health of humans, light has to outshine darkness, knowledge has to prevail over ignorance, good has to overcome evil and purity has to be maintained to ward off impurity.
The lighting of lamps and fireworks produces fumes that can repel insects including mosquitoes. As the festival befalls on a period after the monsoon, this practice would prevent the insects which would otherwise come in plenty at that time. The light of Diwali 2020 has also to be the light that outshines the dark clouds of Covid-19. Every individual celebrating Diwali has to be a bearer of the light aimed at wiping out this pandemic from the surface of Earth. It is up to each of us to make sure we do our best to ensure that Covid-19 does not get an ally in us to spread its tentacles over society.
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How is 2020 Deepavali for other faiths?
Diwali is a day of religious significance to Jain, Sikh, and Buddhist communities. Each of these communities celebrates this occasion with their own respective beliefs and traditions.
For the Jains, it is the day in which Mahaveer – their most famous Tritankara attained Nirvana or liberation. They celebrate this day with a lot of devotion and enthusiasm.
The Sikhs observe Diwali for their own various reasons. They celebrate this occasion as Bandi Chhor Divas marking the release of Guru Hargobind from the Mughal Empire prison. The day was also announced as important by their third guru named Guru Amar Das. Diwali is the occasion when the Sikhs get blessed by their Gurus and it also marks the day when the foundation stone of the Golden Temple was placed in the year 1577.
Diwali is important in Buddhist tradition too. The Newar Buddhists observe this festival by worshipping Lakshmi. In Nepal, it is a multi-day festival with the climax being called the Swanti festival by Buddhists and Tihar festival by Hindus.
Diwali can be linked to Christianity too. On this day in 1999, the then Pope John Paul II performed a very special Eucharist in an Indian church where the altar was decorated with lamps. The pope had a Tilak on his forehead and he made some references on how Diwali is linked to Christianity.
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Diwali 2020 – more than just a joyous occasion
The night of Diwali illuminates every corner of India and an air of happiness and togetherness can be felt everywhere. People celebrate this festival mainly with oil lamps and fireworks. Decorating floors with Rangoli, preparing sweets, buying new clothes, and organizing get-togethers, fairs, parades, etc. are also parts of Deepavali celebrations. But the true spirit of this festival is deeper than what it seems. Nowadays, it is observed without making any efforts for spiritual advancement and the festival has merely turned into an occasion causing air and noise pollutions and an event for pompous celebrations.
Diwali signifies the victory of light (goodness/wisdom) over darkness (evil/ignorance). Wisdom or knowledge is the most potent weapon we have in our struggle against the novel Coronavirus. Science has studied the nature of this virus closely. While destroying it is still not technically possible, avoiding it is not only possible but very much practical as well. We know what to do to keep Corona away – wear masks, maintain hygiene, ensure social distance, and keep home and public spaces clean. Abide by these steps, implement them thoroughly, and spread the knowledge during this festive season.
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As goodness always triumphs over evil in the end, humans too will be victorious in the battle against the Covid-19 virus. Being good means thinking good of others and for others. Being good means being the change you want to see in society. Be the example for others to follow, especially the young ones looking up at you. Be the fighter who has taken up the mission to not let viruses come anywhere near your loved ones. Be the warrior who has taken up the challenge to safeguard society from virus attacks. This Diwali, ensure you are there by the side of the good which will triumph over the evil.
With every lamp we light, we should illuminate our inner self; we should kindle the good qualities in us, refine ourselves, and try to become better and purer as a human.
Being pure is a state of mind and mode of action. Being pure is a way of life. Being pure means not letting the forces of evil contaminate your mind. It means thinking for the welfare of not just you, but the entire world – Loka samastha sukhino bhavanthu. Being pure also means sanitizing your hands, not rubbing your eyes, avoiding crowds, and not bursting crackers to contain air pollution. Covid-19 thrives in impure conditions. Ensure this Diwali that you and those around you stay pure both in mind and body.
On this occasion of Deepavali 2020, let’s promise to keep in our mind the true meaning of the festival and resolve ourselves to celebrate it in the true spiritual way. Together, let us make sure that during this festive season, the light will outshine darkness, knowledge will prevail over ignorance, goodwill overcome evil and purity will keep out impurity.