Diwali literally means “a row of lights”. It falls on the last two days of the dark half of the Hindu month of Kartik (October-November).
There are many origins to this festival. One Diwali celebrate the marriage of Lakshmi with Lord Vishnu. In Bengal the festival is dedicated to the worship of Kali. On this day Lord Rama returned to Ayodhya truimphantly after defeating Ravaana. According to South Indian legend, this day Sri Krishna killed the demon Narakasura and Diwali is celebrated. People wake up before dawn and take an oil bath (Ganga bath) and wear new clothes. Then have sweetmeats and light crackers or fireworks, which are regarded as the effigies of Narakasura who was killed on this day. They greet one another and wish each. Ganga bath refers to the oil bath and it is regarded as purifying as a bath in the holy Ganga.
People forget and forgive the wrongs done by others. There is a sense of freedom, festivity and friendliness and unity, everywhere. It instills charity in the hearts of people. Everyone buys new clothes for the family. Employers, too, purchase new clothes for their employees.
It is customary to wake up before dawn, during the ‘Brahmamuhurta’ (at 4 a.m.), as it is a great blessing from the standpoint of health, ethical discipline, efficiency in work and spiritual advancement. The sages who instituted this custom must have cherished the hope that their descendents would continue with this tradition, of waking up early in the morning and taking oil bath, at least on the day of Diwali and realise its benefits and make it a regular habit in their lives.
Deepavali is a great unifying force.
On this day, Hindu merchants in North India open their new account books and pray for success and prosperity for the coming year. The homes are cleaned and decorated by day and illuminated by night with earthen oil-lamps. The famous Golden Temple at Amritsar is lit in the evening with thousands of lamps placed all over the steps of the big tank. Vaishnavites celebrate the Govardhan Puja and feed the poor on a large scale.
Diwali also bring about a sense of spiritual awakening in us. It lights the self-luminous inner light of the Self, that is ever shining steadily in the chamber of our heart.