All You Need to Know About…Diwali

Diwali+lanterns
Back to Article
Back to Article

All You Need to Know About…Diwali

Diwali lanterns

Diwali lanterns

Diwali lanterns

Diwali lanterns

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






Over the past five days, nearly a billion people around the globe celebrated a holiday you’ve probably never heard of. Diwali is an incredibly important holiday to Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, and Buddhists the world over. The best way to think of it is as if Rosh Hashanah and Christmas had a love child and it was more important than both of them. Over five days of festivities, merrymakers celebrate the victory of good over evil, hope for prosperity in the coming year, and gather with friends and family to celebrate, eat delicious food, and exchange presents. Besides these common customs, traditions and even the dates of the festival vary between different families and ethnicities.

Traditionally the festival begins on the 15th day of the month of Kartika (or Aippasi) of the Hindu lunisolar calendar, which is specifically used to calculate the days of holidays. This day is called Dhanteras, and it is celebrated as a day to clean the house for the new year, pray to the goddess of wealth, Lakshmi, and honor the god of medicine, Dhanvantari. The second day of Diwali is Naraka Chaturdasi, which celebrates the victory of the god Krishna over the demon Narakasura.

Following Naraka Chaturdasi is the actual day of Diwali (the 18th or 19th of October this year). On this day people perform the Lakshmi Puja, a ceremony for Lakshmi that asks for prosperity and good luck in the coming year. It is also traditional to light tea-lights called diyas all around the house to welcome the goddess. Revelers will attend parties, wear their best new clothes, and splurge on sweets.

The fourth day of Diwali is Bali Padyam, which is dedicated to marital relationships; in the first millennium, couples would often get married on this day. The festival finally ends with Bhai Dooj, which is when male family members give gifts to their sisters and female cousins after the latter pray for their protection in the coming year.

According to legend, Diwali was first celebrated when the Hindu demigod Rama returned from 14 years of exile with his wife and followers after slaying the demon Ravana and his armies. In honor of the prince’s return, the people of his kingdom lit thousands of lights along his path, thus beginning the tradition. Over the years, the festival has evolved into the gigantic affair it is today.

While Hindus are the majority of Diwali celebrants, members of the other Dharmic religions also celebrate forms of the holiday. According to Jain custom, Diwali is celebrated in honor of the enlightenment of its last great spiritual leader, Mahavira. As in Hinduism, the Jain Diwali marks the beginning of the new year and is celebrated with lights and get-togethers. Many members of the Vajrayana Buddhist community in Nepal celebrate Diwali as well, primarily because of their strong ties to India and Hindu traditions. The Sikhs celebrate Diwali as Bandi Chhor Diwas, meaning “Day of Liberation”. This holiday marks the liberation of the Sikh spiritual leader Hargobind from the prisons of the Mughal emperor Jahangir. 

As the Indian diaspora has spread across the world, Diwali has become a holiday with increasing recognition in the West. President Obama celebrated Diwali every year he was in office, and President Trump continued that custom this year. Members of the Indian community in the U.S. (including my own family) continue to celebrate Diwali by lighting diyas, giving gifts, and getting together with their relatives, just as their kin almost halfway across the globe do.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Navigate Left
  • All You Need to Know About…Diwali

    All Posts

    Peabody Class of 1974 Visits Obama for 45th Reunion

  • All You Need to Know About…Diwali

    All Posts

    The Problem with Dress Codes

  • All You Need to Know About…Diwali

    All Posts

    Obama Seniors on Their Last Year of High School

  • All You Need to Know About…Diwali

    Creative Writing

    Hear Me Out

  • All You Need to Know About…Diwali

    All Posts

    Youth Participatory Budget Council Presents Proposal on Gentrification to City Council

  • All You Need to Know About…Diwali

    All Posts

    Obama Baseball Wins Walk-Off Thriller

  • All You Need to Know About…Diwali

    All Posts

    UPMC-Highmark Consent Decree: Where We Stand

  • All You Need to Know About…Diwali

    All Posts

    Summer Lee Announces Police Reform Proposals in Response to Shootings, Protests

  • All You Need to Know About…Diwali

    All Posts

    Obama YAG Wins Big at Model Convention

  • All You Need to Know About…Diwali

    All Posts

    Senior of the week: Jason Thomas

  • All You Need to Know About…Diwali

    All Posts

    A Day After Protests, Students Share Why They Didn’t Go

  • All You Need to Know About…Diwali

    All Posts

    Who Will be the Democratic Presidential Candidate in 2020?

  • All You Need to Know About…Diwali

    All Posts

    Michael Rosfeld’s Acquittal is Just Another in a Long Line of Abuses of Power

  • All You Need to Know About…Diwali

    All Posts

    Michael Rosfeld Acquitted on All Charges for the Killing of Antwon Rose II

  • All You Need to Know About…Diwali

    All Posts

    Senior of the Week: Mya Young

  • All You Need to Know About…Diwali

    All Posts

    “Savior Samuel” Celebrates 15th Anniversary of Pittsburgh Playwrights Theater Company

  • All You Need to Know About…Diwali

    All Posts

    Dr. Knox and Mr. Mal

  • All You Need to Know About…Diwali

    All Posts

    Senior of the Week: Raven Haston

  • All You Need to Know About…Diwali

    All Posts

    Northside Chronicle Editor Ashlee Green on Hyper-Local Journalism

  • All You Need to Know About…Diwali

    All Posts

    The Green Book

  • All You Need to Know About…Diwali

    All Posts

    Why Going BPA-Free Might Not Be As Great As You Think

  • All You Need to Know About…Diwali

    All Posts

    Senior of the Week Talaya Caldwell

  • All You Need to Know About…Diwali

    All Posts

    Responses to The Hate U Give

  • All You Need to Know About…Diwali

    All Posts

    Black Life

  • All You Need to Know About…Diwali

    All Posts

    Senior of the Week: Ava Eckenrode

  • All You Need to Know About…Diwali

    All Posts

    Senior of the Week: Ta’Shown Taylor

  • All You Need to Know About…Diwali

    All Posts

    Students Frustrated by New Bus Pass Failures

  • All You Need to Know About…Diwali

    All Posts

    LeadYoung Initiative: Sophie Levitt

  • All You Need to Know About…Diwali

    All Posts

    Reflecting on the Life of Jonathan Freeman

  • All You Need to Know About…Diwali

    All Posts

    Author, Harvard Professor Jill Lepore on the Historical Record and the Direction of the Future

Navigate Right
Pittsburgh Barack Obama Academy of International Studies
All You Need to Know About…Diwali