Diwali is a very significant day for Hindus, Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs. It celebrates the home coming of Rama, who was the seventh avatar of Vishnu and the legendary king of Ayodhya, after his exile in the forest for 14 years. It also celebrates Rama’s victory over Ravana, the evil king of Lanka that, as legend has it, was a brute who kidnapped Rama’s wife, Sita. Diwali is such an important day that it is recognized as an official holiday in India.
The legend states that the good people of Ayodhya, welcomed Rama home by lighting long rows of lamps. This is where Diwali gets its other name, “the Festival of Lights”, from. Diwali is derived from the two words “avail”, meaning rows, and “dipa” or “divas” meaning lamps. These lamps are lit to signify the victory of good over evil, especially within a person.
Diwali also has other significance for other religions. For example, in South India, Diwali represents the victory of Krishna over Narakasura, and in the religion of Jainism, Diwali represents Mahavira’s attainment of nirvana. The Sikhs celebrate the release of Guru Har Gobind Ji who had been held captive by the Emperor Jahangir. The Guru was welcomed home with candles.
There are many beautiful festivals around the world that celebrate Diwali. It is really a pleasure to watch, or even take part in, these wonderful traditions. Some of these celebrations have become famous in non-traditional areas. You can now celebrate Diwali as far away as such places as: Australia, Singapore, South Africa and even Trinidad and Tobago. It is truly an international celebration.