Diwali – Hindu, Sikh, Jain
India’s largest and best known holiday, Diwali (pronounced Di-vall-ee or dih-WAH-lee), is popularly known as the "festival of lights"; however, its most noteworthy meaning in a spiritual sense may be "the awareness of the inner light".
In most regions, Diwali lasts for five days. It begins on the 14th day of the dark half of the Hindu calendar month of Asvina. (Hindu months are each divided into a light half, when the moon waxes, and a dark half, when it wanes.) In 2009, on the Gregorian calendar, Diwali begins on October 17th.
The story behind Diwali, as well as the length and specific details of the celebrations, varies widely from region to region; however, the essence is the same: to rejoice in the inner light (Atman) or the underlying reality of all things (Brahman) through festive fireworks, lights, flowers, the sharing of sweets and worship.
Although it is a national holiday in India with its roots in Hinduism, it is important to understand that in India Diwali is a holiday for all people regardless of religion. There it is celebrated not only by Hindus, but also by Jains, Sikhs, Muslims, Buddhists and others.
For the Jains: Diwali marks the attainment of nirvana by Lord Mahavira – the last of the Jain Tirthankaras – on October 15, 527 BC and is one of their most important festivals.
For the Sikhs: Diwali (also called Bandi Chhorh Diwas or "the day of release of detainees") is a particularly important day because it celebrates the release from imprisonment in 1619 of the sixth Sikh Guru, Hargobind Ji.
Traditional Greeting: Shubh Deepawali! is a traditional greeting. It literally translates to “have an auspicious Diwali”.
Although truly a global celebration, Diwali is most widely – and enthusiastically – celebrated in India where it is a holiday for all people of all religions and faith traditions. With nearly 1.2 billion people, India ranks second among all nations in population.