Diwali - Indian New Year and Festival of Lights
Author: Grace Carter
Hindus in Northern India. [Note to the reader: As with many of the New Year's festivals mentioned on this site, it would be ambitious to try to explain the differing customs of all Diwali celebrations around the globe. Diwali is the New Year in the North but not the South of India. For this reason, we will discuss only the history and traditions of Northern Indian Hindus on this page, although versions of Diwali are celebrated in the South, in Bengal, and in Guyana, Trinidad, Tobago and England, among other places.
The precise day of Diwali fluctuates on a Gregorian calendar. In 2005, it will arrive on November 1. The date is determined by the Hindu lunar calendar, which consists of twelve moon cycles kept in sync with the seasons by the insertion of an extra month every seven years. Diwali always commences on a new moon (the 14th day of the "dark half" of the Hindu month Asvina), which means the Gregorian date changes depending on where in the world you are. In fact, Diwali is but one of five festival days-the middle one-so this year, the New Year festival in Northern India will run from October 30 to November 3.
How to say Happy New Year:
Naya saal mubarak means "Happy New Year"
For centuries India has been an agrarian society. Given Diwali's calendar placement between two cropping seasons, it seems likely that its history is linked to harvest festivals. But more poetically, Diwali is celebrated in the North as the day Lord Rama and his stunner of a wife, Sita, returned home to Ayodhya to rule the kingdom, after 14 long years of exile and a gruesome war in which he killed the demon Ravana. Their people lit the way with little oil lamps called diye or diya.
Values and traditions:
Cleaning up shop for the New Year is a standard practice before countless New Year's celebrations (for example, Norooz, Chinese New Year and Hogmanay and Songkran among others). Diwali is no exception. On dhan teres , the first of five festival days, rich and poor alike clean their homes and fill them with fresh flowers. Doorsteps are adorned with rangoli, intricate displays of colored rice flour. Dhan teres, also known as Dhantvari Triodasi, is a day to worship wealth, especially for the affluent mercantile classes. It's an auspicious day to renovate buildings, and a great time to fork out for some bling for the wife-jewelry bought today will bring good luck.