- (Dipavali)Divali may be the most popular Indian festival. Unlike some other festivals, such as RAM LILA, it is celebrated in all parts of India. It starts on the 14th day of the lunar month of Ashvayuja and extends to the second day of the lunar month of Kartikka. It usually falls around the end of Octo-ber and the beginning of November.The origin of the festival of Divali cannot be traced, but it is known to be at least 1,000 years old. As a “festival of lights” it resembles many other festivals in the world with quite ancient roots. On the first day of the festival one makes an offering to the god of death, YAMA, after pray-ing for expiation of sins. One lights a lamp to “the underworld” where Yama lives. After feasting, rows of lamps are lighted in the evening on ledges and external places of houses. Temples and public places are also illuminated the same way. On the second day LAKSHMI, the goddess of wealth, is worshipped; in Bengal KALI is worshipped instead. Lights are also lit on this day, when late at night a huge racket is created with drums and such to drive away Alakshmi, Lakshmi’s (or Kali’s) inaus-picious counterpart. In fact, by tradition every day of Divali is filled with the sounds of firecrackers.The third day is devoted to the unusual wor-ship of a demon, BALI, the demon king who was vanquished by VISHNU. One is to stay awake the whole night. On the day of Bali it is common for people to gamble, since many believe that this was the day that PARVATI defeated her husband, SHIVA, in a game of dice. On this third day cows and bulls are also worshipped, as is a pile of food that rep-resents the hill Govardhana, which KRISHNA lifted to protect his people from storm. People also pass under a rope of grass tied to a pole and tree in order to assure safe journeys. The final day is a brother and sister day, when brothers are invited to the homes of their sisters for feasting.Further reading: Jagadisa Ayyar, South India Festivities (Madras: Higginbothams, 1921); M. P. Bezbaruah, with Krishna Gopal and Phal S. Girota, eds., Fairs and Fes-tivals of India, 5 vols. (Delhi: Gyan Publishing House, 2003); H. V. Shekar, Festivals of India: Significance of the Celebrations (Louisville, Ky.: Insight Books, 2000).
Encyclopedia of Hinduism. A. Jones and James D. Ryan. 2007.