18 Facts About Diwali

1. Diwali is a major cultural event for the Hindu, Sikh, and Jain diaspora.

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2. Diwali is usually celebrated twenty days after the Vijayadashami festival, with Dhanteras, or the regional equivalent, marking the first day of the festival when celebrants prepare by cleaning their homes and making decorations on the floor, such as rangolis.

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3. The main day of the festival of Diwali is an official holiday in Fiji, Guyana, India, Malaysia, Mauritius, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago.

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4. Diwali is celebrated by Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, and Newar Buddhists, although for each faith it marks different historical events and stories, but nonetheless the festival represents the same symbolic victory of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, and good over evil.

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5. Diwali was celebrated as a signifier of triumph of good over evil after Krishna's Victory over Narakasura.

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6. Mythical tales shared on Diwali vary widely depending on region and even within Hindu tradition, yet all share a common focus on righteousness, self-inquiry and the importance of knowledge, which, according to Lindsey Harlan, an Indologist and scholar of Religious Studies, is the path to overcoming the "darkness of ignorance".

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7. The Jain Diwali celebrated in many parts of India has similar practices to the Hindu Diwali, such as the lighting of lamps and the offering of prayers to Lakshmi.

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8. The festival of Diwali, according to Ray Colledge, highlights three events in Sikh history: the founding of the city of Amritsar in 1577, the release of Guru Hargobind from the Mughal prison, and the day of Bhai Mani Singh's martyrdom in 1738 as a result of his failure to pay a fine for trying to celebrate Diwali and thereafter refusing to convert to Islam.

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9. Diwali is not a festival for most Buddhists, with the exception of the Newar people of Nepal who revere various deities in Vajrayana Buddhism and celebrate Diwali by offering prayers to Lakshmi.

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10. Diwali is a five-day festival, the height of which is celebrated on the third day coinciding with the darkest night of the lunar month.

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11. Diwali is marked with fireworks and the decoration of floors with rangoli designs, and other parts of the house with jhalars.

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12. Some Hindus, Jains and Sikhs will send Diwali greeting cards to family near and far during the festive season, occasionally with boxes of Indian confectionery.

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13. Rituals and preparations for Diwali begin days or weeks in advance, typically after the festival of Dusshera that precedes Diwali by about 20 days.

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14. Naraka Chaturdashi, known as Chhoti Diwali, is the second day of festivities coinciding with the fourteenth day of the second fortnight of the lunar month.

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15. Chhoti Diwali is a day for visiting friends, business associates and relatives, and exchanging gifts.

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16. Unlike some other festivals, the Hindus typically do not fast during the five-day long Diwali including Lakshmi Pujan, rather they feast and share the bounties of the season at their workplaces, community centres, temples, and homes.

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17. Day after Diwali is the first day of the bright fortnight of the luni-solar calendar.

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18. Diwali was first celebrated in the White House by George W Bush in 2003 and its religious and historical significance was officially recognized by the United States Congress in 2007.

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