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Diwali (Deepavali/Deepawali/Tihar (November 2023): Home

A libguide on Diwali (or Deepavali/Deepawali/Tihar), the Indian cultural festival of lights.

This year, Diwali starts on November 12th on Amavasya, the New Moon Day! De Anza College celebrates it on October 25!

Flyer image for De Anza's Diwali celebration


A Story of the Origin of Diwali

When an evil king in Lanka captures Sita, the wife of Rama (an incarnation of the god Vishnu), Rama “builds up an army of monkeys” to rescue her. The monkeys build a bridge over from India to Sri Lanka, and they invade Sri Lanka and free Sita and kill that evil king. As Rama and Sita return to the north, millions of lights are spread out across the city Ayodhya just to help them come back home, just to welcome them.

Lighting lamps has long been one of the ways that Hindus celebrate Diwali.

The story of Naraka Chaturdashi - Killing of All Wrongs

Link to Naraka Chaturdashi Story – Killing of All Wrongs

Diwali in Jainism

In Jainism, Diwali signifies the anniversary of Nirvana and the liberation of Mahavira's soul, the 24th Jain Tirthankara of the current cosmic age. Diwali signifies the end of the years for Jains and celebrates Tirthankara Mahavira's moksha - the liberation of Mahavira's soul - which occurred on October 15, 527 B.C. . This day also commemorates Ganadhara Gautam Swami obtaining omniscience.
Jain New Year starts after Diwali, named Pratipada. The Jain calendar starts in their year of 2501, which starts in Diwali's 1974. Their calendar is known as "Vira Nirvana Samvat".


Diwali - The Indian Festival Of Different Faiths

Diwali in Sikhism

In Sikhism, Diwali commemorates the return of Guru Har Gobind Ji, the sixth Guru of Sikhism. Guru Har Gobind Ji was imprisoned alongside 52 Hindu kings by Emperor Jahangir. After the prisoners were freed, he went to Harmandir Sahib - the Golden Temple - in Amritsar, wherein the locals lit divas to greet him. In Sikhism, Diwali is also referred to as Bandi Chhorh Divas - the day of release of detainees.


Diwali is the five-day Festival of Lights, celebrated by millions of Hindus, Sikhs and Jains across the world. GETTY IMAGES

Diwali in Buddhism

While Buddhists celebrate Diwali, it is more based on culture than religion or belief system. Newar Buddhists are the main continent of Buddhists that observe Diwali in context to their belief system. This is the main religious contingent that observes Diwali in Nepal, a Hindu-majority country!

What is Diwali?

Diwali, or Deepawali, is a primarily Hindu cultural festival lasting 5 days. It's one of the most popular holidays in India and is largely considered the most important holiday of the year. It is now considered a national festival in India and Nepal

The name Diwali or Deepawali is derived from the row (avali) of clay lamps (deepa) Indians light outside their homes. These lights embody the inner light that protects Indians from spiritual "darkness". This centers around the Atman, a reference to a self-being that exists outside the physical body and is popularly manifested as an "inner light". The realization of one's Atman comes love, compassion for all, and attaining higher knowledge. This would then bring about Ananda, inner joy or peace.

Diwali means different things to different religions and belief groups! There's a list on the lefthand side to go deeper on multiple interpretations.

Hindus celebrate the return of deities Rama and Sita to Ayodhya after their 14-year exile. They also celebrate the day Mother Goddess Durga destroyed a demon called Mahisha.

Sikhs particularly celebrate the release from prison of the sixth guru Hargobind Singh in 1619. But Sikhs celebrated the festival before this date.

In fact, the foundation stone of the Golden Temple at Amritsar, the most holy place in the Sikh world, was laid on Diwali in 1577.

The founder of Jainism is Lord Mahavira. During Diwali, Jains celebrate the moment he reached a state called Moksha (nirvana, or eternal bliss).

More than 1 billion Hindus celebrate and observe Diwali all over the world!

People light oil lamps on the eve of Diwali at the Akshardham Hindu temple in Gandhinagar, India, on Wednesday. Sam Panthaky/AFP via Getty Images

How is Diwali celebrated?

Diwali is celebrated over 5 days!


  • DAY ONE - Dhanteras - Saturday, October 22nd

    • This is called the Festival of Purchasing Gold and Metals

    • People clean their homes and shop for gold or kitchen utensils to help bring good fortune.

  • DAY TWO - Choti Diwali - Sunday, October 23rd

    • People decorate their homes and businesses with diya clay lamps and create design patterns called rangoli on the floor using colored powders or sand. These designs can take hours to make by hand.

    • Diya lamps have cotton wicks and oil, signifying the victory of good over evil in every individual.

People create patterns called rangoli on the floor using colored powders or sand. PHOTOGRAPH BY CALEE ALLEN, DREAM

  • DAY THREE - Diwali (Laxmi Puja) - Monday, October 24th

    • On the main day of the festival, families gather together for Laxmi or Lakshmi puja, a prayer to Goddess Lakshmi, followed by mouth-watering feasts and firework festivities. Diyas (clay lamps) are lit at home and at businesses.

    • Many also wear new clothes to commemorate the day.
      • Fireworks on Diwali are a relatively new addition, starting in the 1950s after World War 2.

The brothers bring gifts to their sisters and the festival ends with feasting.

  • DAY FOUR - Govardhan Pooja - Tuesday, October 25th

    • This is the first day of the new year, when friends and relatives visit with gifts and best wishes for the season.

    • Prayers are also offered to Lord Govardhan and Shri Krishna (the 8th avatar of Vishnu and Supreme God).

  • DAY FIVE - Bhai Dooj - Wednesday, October 26th

    • Brothers visit their married sisters, who welcome them with love and a lavish meal.


People light earthen lamps on the banks of the river Sarayu during Deepotsav celebrations on the eve of the Hindu festival of Diwali in Ayodhya. Sanjay Kanojia/AFP via Getty Images

White House Memorandum

Link to White House Page on Diwali celebration in 2021

"To those who celebrate here in America, we are grateful to you for making the traditions of Diwali part of America’s story. For generations, you have opened your homes and hearts during Diwali to exchange gifts and sweets, host feasts with family and friends, and organize cultural programs in our communities – with prayers and dances, vibrant and colorful art, and sparklers and fireworks – that bring us all together.
May the spirit of Diwali remind us that out of darkness there is light in knowledge, wisdom, and truth. From division, there is unity in common bonds of empathy and compassion. From isolation, there is community in the connections we share as we look out for one another and hope, dream, and believe in possibilities.
That spirit is what we reflected upon in the simple act of lighting a diya, a small candle that carries such profound meaning. From the People’s House to yours, may the light shine within us all as a powerful source of healing, repair, and renewal – a light that shines on who we are and what we can be at our best as a people and a nation."