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What is Deepavali?
Did you know Deepavali is India’s most important holiday. It is a celebration of good over evil with 5 days of religious rituals such as acts of dana (charitable giving) and seva (selfless service), cleaning and decorating homes, stringing up lights and reflecting on deeply-held values. For some, Deepavali is also the beginning of a new year. This is the time where you will see brightly burning clay lamps lined up outside houses.
The history of Deepavali can be traced back to ancient India. It most probably started as an important harvest festival. However, there are several legends pointing to the origin of Deepavali.
One of the main stories behind the history of Deepavali is the day Lord Rama, his wife Sita Devi and brother Lakshmana return to their homeland after 14 years in exile. The villagers lit a path for Rama, who had defeated the demon.
During Deepavali, Hindus also celebrate the Goddess Lakshmi. As the goddess of prosperity, wealth and fertility, the romantic Deepavali story states that she chose Lord Vishnu, one of Hinduism’s most important deities, to be her husband on the night of Deepavali.
How is it celebrated?
Deepavali is celebrated mainly by Hindus but also includes people of a diverse range of beliefs and backgrounds. The festival is celebrated over five days and each day holds a certain significance.
The first day is dedicated to the Goddess of wealth and prosperity, Lakshmi. People make sweets and clean their homes and decorate with oil lamps (diyas) and rangolis which are intricate coloured patterns made with colourful sand, rice grains and can also include flowers. People also wake up early in the morning and bathe in natural oils. This is said to remove all sins and impurities. Prayers for the souls of their departed ancestors are offered too.
The third and main day of celebration of Deepavali involves dressing up in new clothes, visiting temples to perform a Lakshmi pooja (prayer to the Goddess Lakshmi). Devotees will light up the diyas that they had displayed the day before to ensure every corner of their house is brightly lit. It’s a time for a gathering with loved ones and feasting on LOTS of good food.
The fourth day of Deepavali marks the first day of the New Year, a time to feel grateful for the past year and look ahead to the next year. Many exchange gifts and well wishes on this day.
Here are some of the common traditional customs and practices that are carried out during Deepavali.
1. House cleaning
I believe that this is not something unfamiliar to you. But what makes house cleaning compulsory for Deepavali? The reason behind this is to spread light, positivity and to share the joy. A brightly lit, nicely decorated and clean house will create a positive ambience. Anyone who visits the house will feel happy (and not to mention comfortable). According to popular Hindu belief, Goddess Laxmi resides in cleanliness. So, the cleaner the house is, the greater are the chances for the deity to shower blessings on your house.
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During the week to Deepavali, shoppers will go crazy. People shop for decorations to give their house a festive makeover. It isn't just limited to decorations! With festivity round the corner, it’s also the perfect chance to buy your dresses, sarees, kurtas and jewelleries along with gifts for your loved ones. Ultimately, Deepavali is all about introducing something new into your life and celebrating together.
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Rangoli is a must have to grace the entrance of every home during Diwali. Whether you love making it with colours or just by pasting “rangoli” stickers, it never goes out of style when it comes to Deepavali decorations. Prayers are offered to the Goddess Lakshmi, asking for her blessings in the form of wealth. The Rangoli is placed at the entrance of the house, not only to welcome guests, but also the Goddess Lakshmi herself.
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4. Indulging in Deepavali Delicacies
Among the many things that Deepavali is synonymous with, food is certainly on top of the list. On the day — and also the days leading up to it, people indulge in different sweets and savouries, and also share the joy of the festival with their near and dear ones, in the form of food. Deepavali wouldn't be celebrated without these treats as they symbolise happiness and is what makes this festival memorable. Check out All Things Delicious’s Deepavali store for some lip-smacking gifts and sweets here.
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5. Lighting up
On Deepavali, houses are decorated with lights and diyas. In Hindu tradition, the lighting of a diya is a crucial part of prayer and it signifies purity, goodness, good luck and power. Diwali falls on new moon day, a period of metaphorical darkness and it is believed that unwanted spirits gain strength and become aggressive when there is no light. So, diyas are lit to weaken them. The oil in the diya symbolises the “dirt” in the human mind such as greed, envy, hate, lust etc. The illumination of the diyas frees us from all kinds of grief, negative thoughts and materialistic wants, leading the path to enlightenment and connection with God.
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6. Celebrating through gifting
Deepavali means a lot of gifts, right? Coming to the gift ideas, food can never go wrong. But if you want to make this festive period special for them, ATD has a remedy for that as well. Surprise your guests with ATD’s specially curated hampers, gift boxes and care packs! The main idea behind the custom of exchanging gifts is to celebrate and to show appreciation and feeling of sharing, love and affection. Heartfelt thoughts, especially for those who are far away, can easily be conveyed with a basketful of curated goodies to the recipient’s doorstep.
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Deepavali is a time of joy and togetherness to honour the triumph of Good over Evil. Families and friends gather, and the festival is celebrated with great merry-making. Hope this complete guide helped you understand the significance and importance of Deepavali and how it is being celebrated.