What IS Diwali?

Also known as Deepavali, or “Festival of Lights,” Diwali is one of the most important holidays for Hindus. (It is also celebrated by Sikhs and Jains.) Diwali is an autumn festival that centers around the victory of light over darkness, goodness over evil, and knowledge over ignorance. Various stories are connected to its significance, with one of the main legends coming from the beloved Ramayana. The following paraphrase is published by uiowa.edu:
“Long, long ago in India, there lived a king who had four sons of three wives. The oldest son, Lord Rama was the ideal son and was everyone’s favorite. Lord Rama was to be pronounced heir to the throne.

However, Lord Rama’s step-mother wanted her son to be king. So she decided to use the boon that her husband, the king, had granted her for saving his life in a battle. She asked the king to send Lord Rama into exile for fourteen years so that her son would be king.

Helpless against his own promise, the king had to grant her the boon. Reluctantly, he sent his favorite son into exile in the forest for fourteen years. Lord Rama lived in the forest with his beautiful wife, Sita, and his loyal brother, Laxman.
When in the forest, a cruel king, from another kingdom, Lord Ravana noticed Sita and fell in love with her. Wilfully, he abducted her and kept her captive in his kingdom. He tried, in vain, to force her to marry him.
Meanwhile, Lord Rama was on a relentless search for his wife. He was helped in his search by the king of monkeys. Lord Hanuman, a monkey God, found Sita. He burned down the cruel king’s kingdom and returned to inform Lord Rama about it.
Lord Rama attacked the cruel king’s kingdom and defeated him. He rescued his wife and returned to his kingdom after 14 long years.
On the day of Lord Rama’s return, the entire kingdom eagerly awaited him. It had been decided that upon his return, Lord Rama would be proclaimed king. The people of the kingdom had decorated their houses with fresh flowers and garlands. Houses were lit with candles and lamps. The streets were cleaned and beautiful designs were drawn on them.

In Hindu-majority countries, Diwali is a HUGE celebration! If you’re from the U.S., think Fourth of July, Christmas, and New Year’s Day ALL wrapped up into one! Diwali is celebrated with fireworks, presents, candle lighting, family visits, food, and more! The next time you meet a Hindu friend, ask them to tell you about one of their Diwali traditions. I bet it’ll make you want to celebrate Diwali yourself!