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Diwali, Deepavali and the festival of lights

Diwali, દિવાળી (Gujarati), दिवाली (Hindi) and Deepavali, दीपावली (Sanskrit), దీపావళి (Telugu), are two variations on the name for a celebration more commonly known as the “Festival of Lights”. Divali is a contraction of Deepavali, which translates literally as “rows of lamps”, referring to the small clay lamps diyas (ghee lamps), which are lit in commemoration of the return of Lord Rama (an earthly incarnation of Lord Vishnu) following his victory over the evil Ravana. Due to this, a significant spiritual meaning of the festival is “the awareness of the inner light”

Deepavali is closely connected to the festival Dussehra which commemorates the day on which Rama slayed Ravana. This victory symbolises Good overpowering Evil.

The Story of Lord Rama tells how Rama was born to Dashratha, King of Ayodhya, and his first wife, Kaushalya. However King Dashratha grants his second wife, Kaikeyi, a boon, which she uses to banish Rama, making way for her own son, Bharata, to ascend to the throne.

Rama is banished for 14 years and his wife Sita and brother Lakshmana accompany him in exile. During this time though, Sita is kidnapped by the demon king of Lanka, Ravana, an evil force with ten heads! This leads to the ultimate battle between Rama and Ravana, ending in the beheading of Ravana and the safe return of Rama and his family to Ayodhya. The rest of his days are lived out as a wise and benevolent king, during a time referred to as Rama Rajya.

Deepavali is celebrated 20 days after Dussehra. It begins on Dhanteras, the first of five festival days and the day on which businesses in north India start their new business year.

The celebrations last five days and there are designated names for each day:

1 – Dhanatrayodashi or Dhan teras or Dhanwantari Triodasi or in other places Govatsa Dwadashi or Vasu Baras
2 – Naraka Chaturdashi
3 – Lakshmi Puja/Amavasya – marks the worship of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth
4 – Kartika Shudda Padyami / Bali Pratipada and Govardhan Puja
5 – Yama Dwitiya or Bhaiduj and on this day sisters invite their brothers to their homes

To mark the festival people light lamps in their homes, set off firecrackers to ward off evil spirits and share sweets. New clothes are worn and families come together to celebrate. It is a national holiday in India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Mauritius, Guyana, Trinidad & Tobago, Suriname, Malaysia, Singapore and Fiji.

There are of course variations as to how people celebrate in each part of the world. Leicester hosts some of the biggest celebrations outside of India.

Are you celebrating Deepavali? What will you be doing to mark the occasion? Are there other festivals which are important in your country? We would love to hear from you.

Diwali ki Shubhkamnayein (दिवाली की शुभकामनाएं): Greeting in Hindi

Diwadi ni khub khub Shubhkamnao / Saal Mubarak(દિવાલી ની ખૂબ ખૂબ શુભકામનાઓ / સાલ મુબારક): Greeting in Gujarati

Deepavali Shubhakankshalu (దీపావళి శుభాకా౦క్షలు) :Greeting in Telugu

For more information on the countries and languages we work with please have a look at our languages page.

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About Sharon Stephens

Sharon Stephens is Operations Director of Lingua Translation. With a First Class Honours Degree in Translation and a University Lecturer in Translation (Masters), she is a self confessed language geek! Bringing the academic principles of translation and business together Sharon offers a quality-driven and needs centric translation and interpreting service - like no other.

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