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Diwali — the Festival of Lights

Diwali Festival is more popularly referred to as Narak Chaturdasi in Goa

Diwali is one of the biggest religious festivals in India. Hindus celebrate by bursting firecrackers, lighting diyas or lamps, cleaning and decorating their homes, buying new clothes, and by painting rangolis or hand-painted designs in their living rooms and courtyards. Prayers are offered to Goddess Lakshmi for prosperity. Diwali signifies the victory of good over evil. The festival marks Lord Rama returning home after defeating the demon King Ravana. Bonfires are lit to burn away evil spirits.

Diwali is celebrated throughout the country over 5 days, between the middle of October and early November. The actual dates vary by a few days every year. Goa is mostly Christian, but Diwali is still a big festival here.

Diwali in 2018 will start on Tuesday, the 6th of November and will continue for 5 days until Saturday, the 10th of November.

Diwali in India

Diwali in India

Diwali in India

India is a huge country with many customs, traditions, and festivals, and they often are different from one part of the country to another. But Diwali is one festival that truly unites the country. It is celebrated throughout India, including Goa. Outside of India too, Hindus celebrate Diwali.

There are many customs and traditions of Diwali, which are mostly common everywhere it is celebrated. Homes are cleaned and decorated with lamps and rangolis, offices and business establishments are also repaired and cleaned, families will give away gifts, prayers are offered to Goddess Lakshmi for good luck and prosperity, the streets too are decorated with lights, and people burn firecrackers loudly. Homes and businesses will buy new things during the festival, as this is deemed auspicious.

Diwali is about celebrations, bringing the family and friends together, and also the victory of good over evil. In many places, especially in North India, and also in some parts of the west, east, and the south, Diwali is the main festival.

The Victory of Good over Evil

Diwali or Deepavali (in Sanskrit), means “row of lights”. This is a 5-day festival held by the Hindus late in the month of October or early November. This is India’s biggest festival, so non-Hindus celebrate Diwali too.

Diwali marks the victory of good over evil, or the victory of brightness over darkness. It marks the return of Lord Rama to his home in Ayodhya with his wife Sita and brother Lakshmana after he defeated the demon king Ravana (the story of the Hindu epic Ramayana). Diwali is also celebrated to mark the defeat of the evil king Narkasur. It is believed that the residents of Ayodhya lit oil lamps along the way to light up the path of Lord Rama as he returned home victorious. In another version, Diwali is celebrated to mark the fall of the evil king Narkasur.

Firecrackers are burst by children and even adults during the days of Diwali. Many also wear new clothes, visit their relatives and friends and share sweets. People visit temples to offer prayers to the Goddess of Wealth, Lakshmi. In the business community, Diwali is considered the start of the new financial year.

Different communities will celebrate Diwali for different reasons, but the customs and traditions are often the same. For instance, the Jains celebrate it for attaining “moksha”, and the Sikhs for the Mughals releasing Guru Hargobind from prison.

Diwali in Goa is a big religious event. It is celebrated over 5 days in October, with the Naraka Chaturdashi day being the most important.

Diwali Highlights

What is Diwali?

A Hindu religious festival, celebrated throughout India, and also in Goa. It celebrates the victory of good over evil. It is also called Deepavali (the original Sanskrit word). Diwali or Deepavali is celebrated over 5 days every year.

When is Diwali?

In the month of October. However, the exact dates vary by a few days every year.

How is Diwali celebrated?

Homes, streets, and temples are decorated with lights. Bursting of firecrackers. Stalls come up everywhere in Goa selling these firecrackers.

Children and adults wear new clothes. Food and sweets are distributed. People visit their friends and the homes of relatives, and even neighbors. Prayers are offered for good fortune and wealth. New utensils are purchased as it is a good omen. Colorful patterns (Rangoli) are painted on the floors.

Street parades

There are street parades in Goa with large figures of the demon king Narkasur. These figures are constructed with paper and straw and are often more than 20-25 feet in height. The parades head to open grounds where the figure of Narkasur is lit up. Everyone cheers as the figure goes up in flame. A lot of firecrackers are also burst.


Many assemble on the banks of rivers to set up small lanterns on boats or tiny rafts. They then watch with interest as the craft floats down the stream.

In the business community

Start of the new business year.

For tourism in Goa

The peak tourist season starts just after Diwali. The long Indian summer is gone. There is little rain in October as well. Most tourists will start arriving after Diwali, as November just around the corner.

Diwali decorations and parties in Goa

Many Goans play psychedelic trance music in big stereos. Dance parties are organized at night clubs, especially if Diwali falls over the weekend. There are visiting tourists from Mumbai, Bangalore, and other Indian cities, and a few foreigners too. Hotels are resorts hand sky lamps from the trees.

Rangoli images

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Rangoli is a beautiful hand-painted design you will find in the courtyard or the living room, close to the entrance of homes. It is made with flower petals, colored sand, dry flour, and colored rice. They have complicated designs and are made of many colors. But a rangoli is not just for decorating the house. There is a deeper significance. It is to stop evil from getting into the home.

Hindus believe that there is both negative and positive energy in the cosmos and within us as well. They begin to dominate based on the situation and when we provoke them. For example, positive energy flows in when we think positively. It is believed that negative energy gets entangled in the complicated design of the rangoli, so it cannot enter the house.

Easy colorful rangoli design tutorial, @Poonam Borkar

Diwali Symbols

Every Diwali, in Goa, and elsewhere in India, you will always see people decorating their homes with lamps or diyas, rangolis, swastika symbols, and there are bonfires and fireworks too. These are the common symbols of the festival, but there is a deeper meaning and significance behind each of them.

  • The Swatika symbol and Shubh Labh – The Swastika is for Lord Ganesha. According to Hindu customs, every new work, including a festival, is started only after paying a tribute to the Lord. You will find this symbol at the entrance of homes, business offices, and even banks. In one avatar, the Lord got married to Riddhi and Siddhi. The two lines at the side of the Swastika are for the two consorts of Ganesha. Shubh stands for “good”, while Labh means “profit”. They are the two sons of Ganesha.
  • Diya or Lamps – Almost every home in Diwali is decorated with diyas, which are earthen lamps. They are put up in every corner, even just outside the entrance. The light is a symbol of goodness, which is expected to fight off evil. The diya’s oil represents dirt (hatred, jealousy, greed, lust etc.), which we all have, and which makes us impure. By burning off the oil and emitting the light, we fight the evil things within us so that we can attain enlightenment.
  • The diya also signifies knowledge. The lamps are supposed to remove the darkness and bring in new thoughts, new ideas, and greater knowledge.
  • Fireworks and Bonfires – According to Hindu mythology, the evil king Narkasur could only be killed by his mother Bhumi Devi, but she was already dead. So in a way Narkasur was immortal. God Indra requested Krishna to do something about this. Krishna in turn asked Satyabhama, his wife, who was a reincarnation of Bhumi Devi to help him. In the fight that followed, Krishna was heavily injured by Narkasur. Satyabhama got furious after seeing this, and killed Narkasur with a weapon.
  • But before his death, Narkasur asked for a boon from his mother. Krishna then said that everyone will celebrate his death by bursting firecrackers, bonfires, distributing sweets, and by lighting their homes.
  • Goddess Lakshmi – One of the most important Hindu Gods, Lakshmi symbolizes happiness, wealth, and prosperity. She is also the symbol of progress. However, it is not just for material gains. Goddess Lakshmi also stands for spiritual growth of the body and the mind.

Diya lamps for Diwali

Diya for Diwali

Top 8 Diwali Traditions

Here are some of the most common Diwali traditions with their meanings.

  1. Cleaning The Home – This is the time for making repairs, cleaning, and throwing away unwanted things. The homes are then decorated with lanterns, ribbons, strings, and lights.
  2. Sweets – Sweets are made at home and given away to friends, relatives, and neighbors. Those who cannot prepare at home will buy it from shops.
  3. Shopping – Diwali is one of the biggest shopping seasons in India. Everyone will buy clothes and wear them. This is another way of getting rid of the evil and moving forward, not looking back into the past. On the first day of Diwali, many will also buy silver and gold coins, or utensils for the kitchen.
  4. Lights – Diyas and lamps are lit up to burn off evil so that we can become pure internally. It is also done to prevent evil from entering the home.
  5. Firecrackers – Celebration of victory of good over evil.
  6. Parties – The time to come together and celebrate so that all family members and friends can meet at least once in the year.
  7. Gifts – Gifts are given to both younger, older family members, and friends. Traditionally, new clothes or sweets were given away. But now people are even gifting food baskets, dry fruits, electronic appliances, and gift vouchers.
  8. Rangoli – These hand-painted complicated designs at the entrance of homes are to capture evil and prevent it from entering the premises.

The 5 Days of Diwali

How Hindus are celebrating Diwali

How Hindu celebrate Diwali

Day 1 – This is the Dhanvantari day, dedicated to the main avatar of Vishnu, an important Hindu God. This is a day of prayers, where people pray for good health and fortune. Food is offered to Lord Vishnu. Incidentally, Lord Rama is believed to be an incarnation of Vishnu.

Day 2 – The Naraka Chaturdashi day, where the victory of Lord Krishna over the Naraka demon is celebrated. Lamps are lit up in Krishna temples across the state. In Goa, this is the most important day of Diwali. In fact, many will celebrate Diwali only on this one day, and go about their everyday life on the other days.

Day 3 – The day of Lakshmi Puja, or when prayers are offered to the Goddess of Wealth, Lakshmi, and also Lord Ganesha. Homes are decorated with lights.

Day 4 – The day of Govardhana Puja. It is celebrated mostly by the North Indians living in Goa, marking how Krishna protected the people from the anger of God Indra. Food is cooked, decorated in the form of a pyramid, and offered to everyone.

Day 5 – The last day of Diwali, a day when people visit their relatives and friends with sweets and other gifts. Prayers are offered for good wealth and fortune. This is a day of doing good and peace.

Diwali in Goa

Across India, Diwali is mostly about the return to home of Lord Rama with his wife and brother. However, in Goa, it is more about the fall of the demon king Narkasur, who was the son of Bhu Devi and Lord Vishnu, a powerful Hindu God.

Narkasur was a king in Goa. He had supernatural powers, but wasn’t good, because he became arrogant and cruel. According to legend, Narkasur would steal away all the assets, relics, wealth, and even the good looking girls. So the people asked Lord Krishna to help them. Lord Krishna defeated Narkasur, killed him, and freed the people. So Diwali is more popularly referred to as Narak Chaturdasi in Goa.

Top 5 Things To Do In Goa During Diwali

  1. Enjoy the firecrackers.
  2. Watch the street parades with the large figure of Narkasur. See how the figure is set on fire and how it slowly goes up in flames.
  3. Diwali is the festival of lights. See the beautiful decorations. Almost every street and every home is decorated with lights.
  4. Visit a Lakshmi temple and offer prayers, or see the devotees.
  5. Visit an Indian home. See the beautiful Rangoli paintings, and learn about Indian customs and food.

Narkasur in Goa

Narkasur in Goa, @lokaso

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