Sikhs and Hindus all the world over will celebrate Diwali, one of the most important festivals in the Hindu calendar, for five days beginning on November 13th this year. Although Diwali translates literally into “row of lamps”, its spirit celebrates the “awareness of inner light.” Diwali is a holiday of joy; it is the time when we gather with loved ones, celebrating our family, our friends and the prosperity that has been bestowed upon us.
The festival starts the night before when lamps are lit to signify the triumph of good over evil and the home is scrubbed clean. Although traditions vary in different parts of the world, three aspects of this day are important:
- lighting lamps in our homes and setting off firecrackers and sparklers to illuminate all the corners of our lives to that they can be cleansed;
- welcoming in the new year, and for businesses closing the books for the fiscal year; and
- honouring Maha Lakshmi, who embodies wealth and prosperity, and asking her to bestow upon us the divine gifts of faith, purity and devotion.
The myth of Diwali celebrates the return of Lord Rama and his cohorts Sita and Lakshmana from their 14 year exile battling the demon-king Ravana. The spirit of Diwali celebrates the central Hindu belief that higher knowledge overcomes ignorance to bring joy and peace. What the festival of lights really stands for is a reaffirmation of hope and a renewed commitment to friendship and goodwill—the joys of life.