Diwali: The Festival of Lights

Diwali (also called Deepavali, Dipavali, Dewali, Deepawali, or the Festival of Lights) is India's largest and most important celebration. The name originates from the row of clay lamps (diya or deepa) lit outside homes to represent the inner light that protects from spiritual darkness.

Diwali is over 2,500 years old and is mainly celebrated by Hindus, but it is also enjoyed by non-Hindu communities too. Diwali takes place over five days in the fall. This year, it ranges from November 10 to November 14, 2023. 

Rangoli Decorations

Rangoli is the name for the colorful decorations used during Diwali.

  • Enjoy a time-lapse video showing the creation of Rangoli sand art.
  • Make it yours! Check out this video with instructions on how to make your own sand.
  • Need ideas? Take a look at this video for some fun and easy designs. 

Day 1: Dhanteras

Diwali begins on the first day with "Dhanteras," or the worship of wealth, on November 10, 2023. At night, lamps of clay or diyas are lit and devotional songs are sung to the goddess Lakshmi. Homes are thoroughly cleansed and whitewashed to help rid them of suffering and disease. Here is a video containing many different stories explaining the origin of Dhanteras. 

Day 2: Naraka Chaturdashi or Choti Diwali

The second day is Naraka Chaturdashi or Choti Diwali on November 11, 2023. People wake up early and apply aromatic oils to themselves before taking a bath. This is said to remove all sins and impurities. They wear new clothes, offer Puja, and enjoy the day by lighting diyas and bursting a few crackers. Take a look at this video of women in Fatehpur Beri village celebrating Choti Diwali.

Day 3: Lakshmi Puja

The third day is the main Diwali festival on November 12, 2023. Lakshmi Puja is performed on this day. The goddess Lakshmi is believed to enter homes and bless people with good fortune. Tiny oil diyas, candles and electric lights are placed around the house. Families exchange gifts and gather together to burst crackers. Check out this budget-friendly Diwali decoration idea. 

Day 4: Govardhan Puja or Padva

The fourth day is Govardhan Puja or Padva on November 13, 2023. It is the day Krishna defeated Indra by lifting the huge Govardhan Mountain to provide shelter during the torrential rains. Devotees prepare various vegetarian foods for Krishna to show their gratitude. Find out more information about this celebration here.

Day 5: Bhai Dooj

The fifth and last day is Bhai Dooj on November 14, 2023. On this day, sisters invite their brothers for a lavish meal and perform a "tilak’" ceremony. Sisters pray for their brothers' long and happy life while the brothers give gifts to their sisters. Looking to prepare your own meal? Check out these six easy Diwali snack recipes.

Learn About Diwali Traditions

Check out one of these books to learn even more about this celebration. 

It's Diwali! by Richard Sebra. What's the most important holiday in India? It's Diwali. This celebration is also known as the Festival of Lights. Learn what people do to celebrate this special holiday.

Diwali: Festival of Lights by Rina Singh. During Diwali, Hindus, Sikhs, and Jains celebrate the legends and stories that describe the triumph of good over evil and justice over oppression.

Lighting a Lamp: A Diwali Story by Jonny Zucker. The traditions of the Hindu New Year, including the exchange and offering of sweets and lighting of diyas (small lamps), are described to communicate the meaning of the festival.

Here Comes Diwali by Meenal Pandya. A Hindu child describes the holiday, its origins, and traditional activities for each of its five days. Instructions are included for craft projects and recipes for seasonal treats.

Diwali by Kate Torpie. Diwali is a five-day Hindu holiday. Hindu children look forward to Diwali all year long. It is one of Hinduism's most important holidays.

Diwali: Hindu Festival of Lights by Dianne M. MacMillan. This book discusses the history and traditions of Diwali, as well as the symbols and current celebrations of this Hindu holiday.