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What is Diwali? Why do we celebrate it?

The word Diwali comes from the Hindi word Diya, meaning light. Diwali is a festival of lights.

So why do people celebrate Diwali?

Photo 1: Diwali celebration in India. Source:

Photo 2: Diwali celebration in India. Source: New York Times.

Legend has it that in ancient India there was a hugely popular Prince known as Ram, who went in exile for fourteen years to forests with his wife, Sita, and little brother, Lakshman. Ram did that to honour a promise that his father the King had made. Ram, Sita and Lakshman used to lead a very modest life in the forests.

While in exile, a devil king, Ravana, abducted Sita to his island kingdom of Lanka. Although alone in the forest, Ram made friendship with the monkey King Sugriva and the great war hero, Hanuman; together they raised an army. He then invaded Lanka, defeated the evil King Ravana and rescued Sita.

When the victorious Ram came back to his kingdom with Sita, all the citizens were so delighted and excited that they celebrated with lots of lights and firecrackers. They celebrated the victory of good over evil. Thus came the tradition of Diwali. The story of Ram was written in the oldest epic of the world Ramayana, older than epics like the Iliad and the Odyssey.

Diwali originated in India but is celebrated in many other countries such as Nepal, Srilanka, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Caribbean Islands, Bangladesh, and in some parts of Australia. On this day people decorate their houses with lights, colour floors with the beautiful art of Rangoli, make delicious food items, exchange these with neighbours and extended family members. Subject to regulations people put a lot of

firecrackers on.

Photo: Sydney Opera House illuminated by Christie to mark Diwali.


The key message is good always wins over evil and we should celebrate this victory; and we should share our happiness with the rest of the society.

Happy Diwali!

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