Diwali, Divali, Deepavali, Tihar, Yam Panchak, Swanti: A Festival of Lights with Many Names

Diwali, Divali, Deepavali, Tihar, Yam Panchak, Swanti: A Festival of Lights with Many Names

Nov 11, 2023

Lights, sweets, and meeting with loved ones…” - Deepak in India

 “Full of charisma (that) lights all houses…” - Dilli in Nepal

 

Whereas this five day multi-faith festival may have many names and be celebrated differently amongst different cultures, this Festival of Lights focuses on “victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over power” through illumination, celebration, family, and community.  

 

When does Diwali start?

 

In 2023 Diwali starts Sunday, November 12th and goes on for 5 days. Diwali marks the beginning of the Indian astrological calendar, during the lunisolar month of Kartika, which usually falls towards the end of October or the beginning of November. In Nepal Diwali, also known as Tihar or Yam Panchak, coincides with the Newar new year, which occurs on the fourth day of the festival. The Newar are the largest indigenous group in Nepal and are recognized as the “historic inhabitants of the Kathmandu Valley.”

 

Where is Diwali celebrated? 

 

The Festival of Lights is celebrated all over India and although it is commonly thought of as a Hindu festival, it is also an important festival in the Jain and Sikh faiths, as well as amongst certain Buddhists in Nepal and Northern India. It is also celebrated Singapore, Malaysia, Fiji, Indonesia, as well as some other parts of the world. 

 

To better understand the multiculturalism of these celebrations we asked two of our friends and coworkers, Deepak from New Delhi and Dilli from Kathmandu, to tell us about their Diwali experiences. 


Diwali candle lighting ceremony at a temple in Jaipur, India(Diwali candle lighting ceremony at Deepak's temple in Jaipur, India)

 

Who do you celebrate Diwali with?

 

Deepak - "Family, friends and neighbors. With Family - if some members are working / studying in some other cities, all come back to celebrate the festival together. With friends (and neighbors) gifts are exchanged a day in advance or on the day of the Festival.

Evening time is prayer time - prayer of Goddess Laxmi (Goddess of Wealth). Elder members of the family give some good handsome pocket money to all the family members (after the prayer). So wealth comes instantly for youngers.  

Prayers are answered instantly. Playing cards on Diwali night is considered auspicious among many people (especially winning is important). But such is a game, it's won by some and lost by some. “


(Diwali dance performances at the same temple)

 

How do you celebrate Diwali?

 

Deepak - “Morning time, I go to the temple (with family) to offer my prayers. The temple where I go, it's celebrated in a big big way.  Some cultural programmes are organized. Some dance performances, some laughter things etc. and after that - the candle lighting. We bring the candle to our home and light all the oil lamps and candles in our home with that (holy) candle. In the temple, some special food is arranged so we (all the family) enjoy the breakfast over there.

Once I am back at home from the temple, I go to my office / shop and decorate the shop with flowers and lights. Earning some money on this day (from sales) is always considered as a symbol of good luck. In the evening, prayers are performed at shops. Then we proceed for home to offer prayer with family."

 

 

(Dilli applying a red "tika" on his wife Ayeshma's forehead during a candle lighting ceremony at their home in Kathmandu)

 

Dilli - “In Deewali we (also) call Tihar we celebrate five days it’s called “yam panchak." Throughout the five days "tikas" are worn by all of those celebrating, sometimes including animals.

In the Nepalese Newar culture, each day of the festival is dedicated to a different animal, while the fourth day also celebrates the Goddess Lakshmi.

Dilli - "First day we celebrate Crow. Second day Dog. Third day Cow, also Goddess Laxmi.

On the second and third days of Newar Diwali "tikas" are placed on the foreheads of dogs and cows all throughout the Khatmandu valley to pay respects to the roles that they play in human lives.

Fourth day Human Body it’s call ‘ mha puja ‘ and that day is Newari new year. 5th day (is called) Bhai Tika, sister worship to brother for blessing .”

 


(Dilli celebrating Diwali with his family, all adorned with Tikas in Khatmandu)

 

Diwali Blessings

 

Whether you find yourself in Kathmandu, Cairo, Chicago, Damariscotta or New Delhi, you can also celebrate this special day with your friends and family. Whether you are celebrating animals, the Goddess Lakshmi, or a beautiful sunset, light is all around you. Set your intentions, eat some special food, and celebrate in any way you feel. Maybe you will eat some sweets like Deepak, maybe you will play an auspicious card game, or maybe you’ll just find some special time to spend with special people.

 

 Our handmade paper star lantern artisan in India


Did you know that Deepak makes all of our beautiful paper star lanterns

 


Shine your light on the world 🔆 How will you celebrate Diwali?

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