Diwali 2018: World celebrates the festival of lights

Last Updated: Wed, Nov 07, 2018 18:19 hrs
Diwali celebrations

New Delhi: People across the world are gathering together to light lamps, feast on sweets and set off fireworks. It’s to mark the most important day of Diwali, the five-day festival of lights.

Diwali comes from the Sanskrit word Deepavali, which translates as "rows of lighted lamps". It marks the beginning of spring in the southern hemisphere and coincides with the Hindu New Year. It also celebrates the spiritual triumph of light over darkness, and knowledge over ignorance.

Diwali’s date changes every year. This year, celebrations began on November 5, with November 7 being the most important day of celebrations. The festival is celebrated everywhere with Hindu, Sikh or Jainist populations, most notably in Asia.

Different legends and traditions are tied up with the festival, which is celebrated by a number of religious groups. Hindu mythology includes the tale of deities Rama and Sita, who were exiled for 14 years. Diwali is a celebration of their return. Many Hindus also associate the festival with Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity.

Sikhs have also celebrated the festival for centuries, but over the years they used it to mark Guru Hargobind Singh’s release from prison in 1619. Jains celebrate the moment that their religion’s founder, Lord Mahavira, reached a state of nirvana. But although the specifics are different, for Hindus, Sikhs and Jains alike, Diwali symbolizes the victory of good over evil.

The festival is celebrated in a number of different ways, with each day having a different set of rituals. Celebrants decorate their homes with diyas—a kind of clay oil lamp—as well as candles and lanterns. People come together underneath firework displays, and huge feasts are prepared. Parades, music and other events are designed to bring communities together.

On the third day, the height of the festival, elderly family and community members are visited by the young. Feasts are held, and in the evening people put on their best clothes and jewelry. A dazzling number of lamps are lit to illuminate houses, streets and even rivers, as fireworks light up the night sky.

However, modern concerns are now being weighed against these ancient traditions. Air pollution and burn injuries caused the Supreme Court of India to ban the sale (although not use) of fireworks in Delhi during Diwali in 2017.

President, PM greet nation on Diwali

President Ram Nath Kovind, Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other political leaders on Wednesday greeted the nation on the occasion of Diwali, the festival of lights.

"Wishing all fellow citizens a happy and prosperous Diwali. May the festival of lights illuminate every home and every family, in our country and across our shared planet," the President tweeted.

Naidu said in a series of tweets that Diwali signified the victory of good over evil.

"I extend my warm greetings and good wishes to the people of our country on the auspicious occasion. Diwali signifies the victory of good over evil and reaffirms our faith in the noble qualities that Lord Ram embodied.

"Also associated with Goddess Lakshmi - the harbinger of wealth, grace and prosperity - Diwali is celebrated not only in India but all over the world by the people of Indian origin. May this festival bring illumination, peace, prosperity and happiness in our lives," Naidu said.

The Prime Minister took to Twitter: "Happy Diwali! May this festival bring happiness, good health and prosperity in everyone's lives. May the power of good and brightness always prevail."

Congress chief Rahul Gandhi wished a Happy Diwali to the people through Twitter. He wrote, “My best wishes to all Indians, on the auspicious occasion of Diwali. I wish you all peace & happiness.”

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh wished warm greetings to everyone. "May God fill your life with happiness, peace and prosperity."

Extending his best wishes to all Indians, Congress President Rahul Gandhi tweeted: "I wish you all peace and happiness on Diwali".

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal wished "a very happy Diwali" to everyone.

CPI-M General Secretary Sitaram Yechury tweeted: "Greetings and Best wishes on Diwali, a festival of happiness, harmony and light."

Bahujan Samaj Party supremo and former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati extended Diwali wishes to people across India, specially to those belong to the Indian Army, labourers, farmers, youth and women.

In a statement, Mayawati requested the Centre and the state governments to end all kinds of discrimination, casteism, exploitation and harassment in the society and ensure justice to the underprivileged.

Diwali is one of the most popular festivals of India and is celebrated with great enthusiasm and joy across the country -- and by Indians abroad.

World leaders wish a happy D?iwali

Israel's Prime Minister Bejamin Netanyahu extended his Diwali greetings to Prime Minister Modi and sought the name of the city where the latter will celebrate the festival.

"On behalf of the people of Israel, I would like to wish my dear friend @narendramodi and the people of India a joyous Diwali. May this luminous festival of lights bring you happiness and prosperity. Reply to this tweet with the name of the city where you're celebrating!" Netanyahu had tweeted.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday said that it is a festival that celebrates the triumph of light over darkness.

He also said that it is also a time of reflection and prayer when observers perform seva, or selfless service, without any expectation of reward or payment.

In a Diwali message wishing people a joyous and prosperous holiday, Pompeo said, “Also known as the ‘Festival of Lights’, this special occasion celebrates the triumph of light over darkness.”

The US Secretary of State said that nearly a billion celebrants from around the world will light the diya, or lamp, “as a reminder that good ultimately overcomes evil, understanding over ignorance, and kindness over animosity“.

“As those celebrating decorate their homes with vibrant lights, I would also like to recognize the achievements of our friends in the United States observing Diwali who make important contributions to our country on a daily basis,” Pompeo said.

Senator John Cornyn, who is co-chair of the Senate India Caucus, said that Diwali marks the beginning of the Hindu New Year, and millions across the globe — including hundreds of thousands of Indian-Americans in Texas — celebrate the Festival of Lights.

“These lights are physical, including lanterns, candles, and fireworks, but for those who light the flames, they hold a deeper meaning. Diwali celebrates awareness of one’s inner light and light’s triumph over darkness. It celebrates goodness over evil and hope over despair,” he said.

Tulsi Gabbard, the first Hindu elected to the US House of Representatives, in a video message said that Diwali is such a special time of year where people all over the world are coming together to light their lamps in honour the return of Lord Ramachandra to His kingdom after many years in exile, and celebrate the victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance.

“Unfortunately, in our world today, we find ourselves surrounded by darkness and divisiveness, based on race, gender, politics, or religion. We see political leaders and influencers, people in the media, unfortunately fomenting bigotry and hatred, for their own personal or political gain,” she rued.

Rather than engaging in constructive dialogue, treating each other with respect, disagreeing without being disagreeable, too much of the public discourse is dominated by hatred, tribalism, and character assassination which unfortunately has also led to threats or acts of violence, Gabbard said.

Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has extended his greetings to the worldwide Hindu communities and those of Pakistan in particular on the eve of Diwali being celebrated on Wednesday.

In his message on Diwali, the PPP chairman assured the non-Muslims living in Pakistan that his party will always stand for their protection and promotion as equal citizens of the state as per the vision of the country’s founding fathers as well as teachings of Islam.

Bilawal said that Diwali is celebrated as a triumph of good over evil and light over darkness while adding that PPP”s philosophy was also to fight against darkness, injustices and inequality.

PPP urged all those celebrating Diwali to hold special prayers for the peace, prosperity and progress of Pakistan in addition to, interfaith harmony and cohesive coexistence in society.

Bilawal also asked the PPP leaders, especially those of the minority wing, to celebrate and share festivities with the Hindu community.

More from Sify: