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A festival for family, friends and the soul - hundreds of thousands of Australians will be seen celebrating Diwali across the country during October. It's a traditional Indian festival celebrated by Hindus, Jains and Sikhs around the world. It's all part of pumping the soul with spiritual prosperity with lighting candles and earthen lamps, giving gifts, buying jewellery and gorging on delicious sweets.
By
Jitarth Bharadwaj, Mosiqi Acharya

10 Oct 2016 - 4:07 PM  UPDATED 11 Oct 2016 - 12:26 PM

Originating in South-East Asia, Diwali is celebrated around the world. The words Diwali or Deepavali mean  'a row or series of lights' and festivities include decorating public spaces and homes with lights, fireworks displays, cultural activities and the sharing of food and gifts.

 

Originating in South-East Asia, Diwali is celebrated around the world.

The lights have both mythical and spiritual meaning. Hindus, Jains, and Sikhs celebrate the spiritual victory of good over evil while a personal journey is reflected in the themes of light over darkness and knowledge over ignorance. A Hindu legend traces the first time the lights were used to a story about Lord Rama who is a descendant to the Hindu God Vishnu.

Hindus, Jains, and Sikhs celebrate the spiritual victory of good over evil while a personal journey is reflected in the themes of light over darkness and knowledge over ignorance.

Rama returns to his kingdom in the ancient Indian city of Ayodhaya after 14 years in exile and wins a battle against a demon king. The story says people lit up their houses to celebrate his victory. Professor Ian Woolford from La Trobe University says many Australians who aren't religious celebrate Diwali to learn about Indian culture.

"It seems to me, off course it is a religious festival but especially outside of India it seems to become something else, like more of a cultural celebration. And I understand that here even in Melbourne that there are many, many people who are not Indian, and who are not Hindu, who celebrate Diwali now.

The ritual of using lights, also known as Diyas, is an opportunity to meditate and to illuminate your soul.

Perhaps to learn about Indian culture, they see it as a wonderful expression of Indian culture and perhaps they also think that the message of Diwali is for all people."

Melbourne Diwali Festival organiser Arun Sharma says the ritual of using lights, also known as Diyas, is an opportunity to meditate and to illuminate your soul.

The festival of Diwali is generally celebrated over three to five days with each day signifying different meaning.

"Diwali does have a massive significance behind. It's not just for fun and just come and enjoys and walks away with nothing. Diya represent light which we generate from Diya, is for enlightening of self.  It's removing all the darkness which is very significant, not just in your home but in your hearts as well. So it got a good value, good message behind."

Professor Woolford says the lights represent the struggle to overcome internal issues.

On the first day of Diwali activities include spring cleaning your house, shopping for gold or silver and offering sweets and prayers to the Gods.

"It's significant of the victory, the victory of truth over evil, over lies. Victory of lights over darkness. This is one thing that it signifies and of course perhaps this is become so popular even among non-Indians. This is the message that all of us can appreciate. We all understand that there are demons even inside of us, right, every day we can struggle with this. Every day we can struggle with our own forced exile that we may be experiencing. So this is a reminder that we can say to those demons that you know, come with us, come with us towards the light, light can prevail. So this is the message for everyone."

On the second day, some decorate their homes with clay lamps and create patterns of lights.

The festival of Diwali is generally celebrated over three to five days with each day signifying different meaning. These festivities are celebrated in unique ways by different communities across India. Some traditional activities on the first day of Diwali include spring cleaning your house, shopping for gold or silver and offering sweets and prayers to the Gods. On the second day, some decorate their homes with clay lamps and create patterns of lights. They also create rangolis, which are decorative patterns of coloured powder or sand arranged on the floor. The third day of Diwali is considered the festival's main day, when people gather to worship the Goddess Lakshmi to attain wealth and prosperity.

The third day of Diwali is considered the festival's main day, when people gather to worship the Goddess Lakshmi to attain wealth and prosperity.

The next day "Nutan Varsh" is celebrated as New Year's Day in the West Indian state of Gujarat. Friends and family exchange gifts and sweets and they also create Annakut which are mountains of food arranged in large tiers or shapes - representing India's Mount Govardhan.

 

The fourth day "Nutan Varsh" is celebrated as New Year's Day in the West Indian state of Gujarat.

The fifth and the last day of Diwali is called Bhaiduj, [buy-dooj] where brothers bless their sisters and provide gifts of love. Much like the story of Father Christmas, some Hindus believe that the goddess of happiness and good fortune, Lakshmi, visits the earth on this last day. Astrologer Pandit Indu Prakash says if the goddess finds a house that is pure, clean and bright; she will fulfil the wishes of her devotees.

The fifth and the last day of Diwali is called Bhaiduj, where brothers bless their sisters and provide gifts of love.

"By adopting certain activities or certain things or doing some certain things it develops an attitude in you which can provide wealth in your life so it is an indication. It's just, it's just a guideline to the society that by doing these things you can invite goddess Lakshmi in your life, which will shower you wealth and prosperity."

Australia’s large Indian community across the country has organised several free events to celebrate Diwali. Dr. Nihal Agar, President of Hindu Council of Australia, says over 25 thousand people gathered last year to celebrate Diwali in Sydney’s Parramatta. He points out how the effigy burning of Ravan* is one of the biggest attractions of the festival.

Australia’s large Indian community across the country has organised several free events to celebrate Diwali.

“The special feature of Diwali is the burning of the effigy of Ravan, which symbolises the defeat of evil by good. We import Ravan effigy from India  and done it at the time when there is an appearance of darkness. There is a very good fireworks.  So that is the main and unique feature of Diwali. We also celebrate Diwali in the Federal Parliament at Canberra and in Adelaide.”

The special feature of Diwali is the burning of the effigy of Ravan, which symbolises the defeat of evil by good.

To celebrate Diwali, SBS is hosting a season of dedicated programming across TV, radio, online, On Demand and, for the first time, in virtual reality (VR) with Tomorrow’s Diwali. For more information, go to the SBS Guide's summary of our Diwali coverage.

*Burning an effigy signifies the triumph of good over evil.