Behold the Glowing Magic of Diwali, India's Ancient Festival of Lights

Article by: Laura Mason|@masonlazarus

Thu October 19, 2017 | 13:15 PM

Winter is a season when twinkling, warm lights are everywhere. It wouldn't feel like the holidays without a trip to the store to load up on sparkling luminescence with which to encrust the walls of your home, right? Well, in India, they've been on that tip for a much longer time than the rest of us have. They've got Diwali – celebrated throughout the country beginning October 17 – which is the ancient festival of lights; it brightens up their darker, cooler months, and it is a gorgeous and sacred sight to behold. 

This multi-day Hindu tradition, which dates back thousands of years to the beginning of India, is technically a tradition with a religious foundation and harvest season roots, but everyone is welcome (sounds like modern-day Christmas in the U.S.). Thousands of oil lamps, fireworks, lavish feasts, fragrant Jasmine flowers and colored sand in the form of lotus blossoms adorn the country as an expression of respect and reverence to the heavens for the attainment of health, wealth, knowledge, peace and prosperity. 

It does, after all, come in the fall, which marks the end of the harvest season and also the beginning of a new financial year. Life in India revolves around the agrarian calendar, and at this time of year people pay debts and make prayers for good crops. Lakshmi, the goddess of beauty, wealth and prosperity, plays a central role in the celebration because her worship might bring good fortune to her devotees.


But let's get to the good stuff: the lights and the feasts – and even the gambling. The first two days of Diwali are mostly focused on preparation, the first set aside to clearing out the home, the second spent decorating it. The third day is the epic centerpiece with lavish feasts and fireworks displays to rival any American July 4th celebration. On the fourth day, friends and relatives visit their families and come bearing gifts. On the fifth and last day, a very specific ritual takes place in which brothers pay a visit to their married sisters who prepare a sumptuous meal in return. The tradition of gambling during Diwali is also widespread, because it is believed that during this holiday, Goddess Parvati played dice with her husband Lord Shiva, and she decreed that whosoever gambled on Diwali night would hit it big throughout the ensuing year.

As much as Diwali is a smorgasbord for the eyes, its spiritual meaning is profound. Diwali also means the awareness of the inner light; through higher knowledge we can dispel ignorance and awaken our Atman, or pure and infinite spirit. This victory of knowledge (light) over ignorance (darkness) is seen as a path to spiritual enlightenment for all. Clean out the old and light up your life in this time of renewal.