Diwali celebrations

Diwali lamps

Diwali has been an important Hindu festival for hundreds, even thousands, of years. It is also marked by Jains and Sikhs. The origin stories may be different, but the occasion is always happy and celebrates good over evil, light over dark, knowledge over ignorance. Diwali is an official holiday in many countries including Fiji, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Trinidad and Tobago, as well India.

The Hindu festival celebrates the return of the gods Rama and Sita from exile. Diwali, from the Sanskrit ‘deepavali’ meaning ‘row of lamps’, is also known as the festival of lights. Special lamps are lit and placed around the home, and all kinds of buildings are festooned with coloured lights. Fireworks also play a big part in the merriment. Gifts are exchanged, new clothes are purchased and people often feel this is a good time of year to make a new start. The festivities usually last for five days and in 2016 they culminated on the 29 or 30 October depending on the region of India. In fact, some parts of India commemorate the holiday with quite different traditions, in addition to the usual illuminated fun.

In Goa, during Diwali celebrations people also commemorate Lord Vishnu’s victory over the demon Narakasura. Huge effigies of the demon are made from paper mache and then burnt at dawn on the main festival date.

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