Diwali is a five-day festival widely known as the Hindu New Year, and comes from the Sanskrit word dipavali (dipa, lights and vali, numerous. The festival is commonly observed by illuminating hundreds of candles in homes, temples and public spaces, and by offering opulent preparations of food to the deity.
In ancient times, Diwali was first observed by the citizens of Ayodhya to celebrate the joyful return of King Rama, an incarnation of Krishna. In another era, this was also the day when Lord Krishna performed His Damodara childhood pastime of breaking the pots of yogurt and letting Himself be bound by Mother Yasoda. Devotees remember these pastimes during this auspicious month known as Kartika.
The Founder-Acharya of the Hare Krishna Movement, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada wrote about Diwali in a letter to a disciple:
“Diwali ceremony can be observed in the temple by illuminating 100’s of candles, in different parts of the temple, and offering special Prasad to the Deity. This ceremony was observed by the inhabitants of Ayodhya, the Kingdom of Lord Ramacandra, while Lord Ramacandra was out of His Kingdom due to His 14 years banishment by the order of His father. His younger step-brother Bharata, took charge of the Kingdom and the day on which Lord Ramacandra took back the charge again from His brother, and seated on the throne, this is observed as Diwali function. This is the original idea of Diwali, and Dipabali. Dipabali means the same thing—Dipa means candles, andbali means numerous. When numerous candles are lighted it is called Dipabali. In India, this Dipabali function is celebrated in a special auspicious occasion.”
According to the epic Ramayana, Diwali commemorates the return of Lord Rama, an incarnation of Krishna as the noble king, from his 14-year exile after rescuing Sita and killing the demon Ravana. The people of Ayodhya illuminated the kingdom with earthen diyas (oil lamps) and fireworks to celebrate the return of their king.
In rural areas of India, Diwali, which occurs at the end of a growing season, is a harvest festival. Harvests normally brought prosperity. After reaping their harvest, farmers celebrated with joy and gave thanks to God and the demigods for granting them a good crop.
At the time of the reign of Emperor Prithu, for example, there was a worldwide famine. He ordered that all cultivatable lands be ploughed. When the rains came, the land became very fertile and grains were planted. The harvest provided food not only to feed all of India, but for all civilization at the time. This harvest was close to Diwali time and was a good reason to celebrate Diwali with great joy and merriment by a wider community.
In the Adi Parva of the Mahabarata, the Pandavas also returned from their exile in the forest during Diwali time, giving people another reason for celebration. [Krishna.com]
We will be celebrating it on Sunday, October 30.