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Significance and History of Diwali

Diwali is India’s most important festival of the year—a time to celebrate the triumph of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, and good over evil. Widely observed among more than a billion people from a variety of faiths across India and its diaspora, the five days of Diwali are marked by prayer, feasts, fireworks, family gatherings, and charitable giving. For some, Diwali is also the beginning of a new year.

But Diwali is perhaps best known as a festival of lights. Derived from the Sanskrit Deepavali, which means “row of lights,” Diwali is known for the brightly burning clay lamps that celebrants line up outside their homes.

The dates of this festival are based on the Hindu lunar calendar, which marks each month by the time it takes the moon to orbit Earth. Diwali begins just before the arrival of a new moon between the Hindu months of Asvina and Kartika—which typically falls in October or November of the Gregorian calendar. In 2021, Diwali begins on November 2, and its most important festival day will take place on November 4.

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