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Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Lights, is one of the biggest holidays celebrated in India. As the purpose behind Diwali is to celebrate the victory of light over dark, this 5-day holiday includes the use of many lights and glowing decorations.
Some popular decorations include clay oil lamps called diyas, candles, fairy lights, and lanterns.
Other Diwali decorations welcome the Goddess Lakshmi, who is the main deity worshipped during this festival. They include colorful designs made with flower petals called rangoli and wall hangings made from marigolds and mango leaves called toran.
A diya (pronounced dee-ya) is a small clay oil lamp and the main symbol of Diwali. Diyas are usually made of earth and have cotton wicks that sit in a pool of ghee or vegetable oil to help them burn. Many are sold plain but others can be painted with beautiful patterns and colors.
Diyas are such an important part of the holiday that its name is actually derived from these little lanterns. Diwali comes from the Sanskrit word Deepavali, which means the row of lights. "Deep" is the Sanskrit word for diya and "avali" means row.
In Hinduism, diyas symbolizes knowledge and the choice of light over darkness. The lighting of the diyas is an important part of the celebrations and rituals of holiday and these lanterns can be seen in houses and lining streets throughout cities.
In the holy Hindu city of Varanasi, the streets and steps leading to the Ganges River are lit with more than a million diyas during Diwali.
A rangoli is a design that is made by hand and is created on the ground using colorful materials such as dyed rice, flour, sand, or flowers. The purpose of this decoration is to welcome visitors into the home. Creating the rangoli is often the job of the women of the household and the designs are passed down through families from one generation to the next.
Rangoli designs can be geometric, shaped like flowers, or even resemble deities. During Diwali, most rangolis also include lit diyas. The base of the design is often made from flour to which vermilion, turmeric, and other natural colors can be added to make the background. Once the background is complete, the design is slowly added over a period of 2 to 3 hours.
On Diwali, a rangoli is created at the entrance of homes to welcome the Goddess Lakshmi who is the main deity worshipped during this festival. The purpose of this decoration is to bring strength, kindness, and good luck to the household. The designs often reflect traditions, folklore, and practices that are unique to each region of India.
One of the main focuses of Diwali is creating light during the main night of the holiday. Apart from the illumination of homes and businesses with lanterns and diyas, candles are also often used inside the home. Candles often burn for longer and can be safer than oil lanterns.
For Hindus, lighting candles in every nook and corner of the home symbolizes destroying the reign of darkness and ignorance. Around Diwali, special candles are sold throughout markets that are decorated with images of the deities such as Lakshmi and Ganesh.
Scented tea candles are very popular during Diwali as they are about the size of diyas and can burn for many hours. It is also common to see candles in the shape of roses, lotus flowers, and sunflowers.
String lights, or Christmas lights, are the perfect modern Diwali decoration. Not everyone has the time and energy to decorate their homes with hundreds of candles or diyas and electric lights are also often safer and can be left on all night without worry.
During Diwali in India, it is common to see string lights decorating homes and markets as they are great for lighting up entire areas and creating a festive feeling. Certain markets such as the Khan Market in Delhi are particularly famous for their beautiful displays of string lights.
An elegant method of using electric lights for Diwali is to make fairy light curtains. This can be done by taping a few strands of lights above a window and letting them hang down in a row.
Jaipur is a particularly great place to go for the holiday because practically the entire city is decorated with colorful electric lights. The markets are especially beautifully decorated and the most popular ones to visit on Diwali include Johari Bazaar, Nehru Bazaar, and Bapu Bazaar.
Torans, also known as Bandanwals, are decorative door hangings that are used during Diwali and are usually placed at the main entrance of homes. The purpose of these decorations is to welcome guests and especially the goddess Lakshmi so that she can bless the family with good luck and wealth.
Torans are usually made from marigold flowers and mango leaves and may feature colors such as green, yellow, and red. They can are also sometimes made of cloth or metal that has been cut to resemble mango leaves.
Mango leaves or other leaves are usually used in Torans because they are thought to represent Lakshmi and keep out negative energy. The color green is also often chosen because of its calming nature and ability to rid the home of anxiety and stress.
Lanterns are an essential part of Diwali celebrations and people across the country will hang them outside their houses during the holiday. Paper lanterns are the most common type of lanterns used on Diwali as they are the easiest to make at home.
A fun activity for families is to make lanterns together all you need to do so is sticks, colored paper, and glue.
If you aren’t a crafty person or don’t want to make one, then it is possible to buy paper lanterns in local markets or online. To spread the light over the holidays, you can also place a candle or diya inside the lantern to make it glow.
In some cities, there is a tradition of releasing flying lanterns into the sky on the night of Diwali. Releasing flying lanterns is a ritual meant to rid a person of bad energy and help them start a new and enlightened path towards righteousness.
Marigold flowers are sometimes called the ‘Herb of the Sun’ and they are known to have many benefits such as improving one's mood and warding off stress. In Hinduism, these orange and yellow flowers are considered auspicious especially for new beginnings and important life events.
Marigolds are commonly used in India during rituals and on religious occasions. The flowers are also commonly used as offerings to the gods Lakshmi and Ganesh.
During Diwali, both Ganesh and Lakshmi are worshipped and to honor the gods many people decorate their homes with marigold flowers or garlands. When in India for Diwali, you will likely see the flowers are hung on doorways or placed near entrances.
Diwali markets are the best place for people to shop for holiday decorations. These markets are especially busy and alive during the holiday and sell all kinds of items including string lights, posters, lamps, diyas, and idols of gods and goddesses. The best Diwali markets are often said to be found in Delhi.
Chandni Chowk and Dilli Haat are especially great places to go. If you visit these areas near the time of the holiday, you’ll find shops filled with aromatic candles, handicrafts, elegant traditional clothes, sweets, and beautiful gift boxes as well as plenty of decorations.
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