Happy Diwali 2011! Diwali, the Festival of Lights The sun does not shine there, nor do the moon and the stars, nor do lightning shine? All the Diyas of the world cannot be compared even to a ray of the inner light of the Self. Merge yourself in this light of lights and enjoy the Happy Diwali! Diwali is the largest Hindu festival, celebrated in India and all over the world with joy and enthusiasm. Other religions observing Diwali include Jains, Sikhs and Buddhists. The name Diwali is itself a contraction of the Sanskrit word Deepavali, which translates as “row of lamps.” Diwali involves the lighting of small clay lamps filled with oil to signify the triumph of good over evil. The 2011 Diwali Festival date is Wednesday, October 26, and in 2012 it is November 13. According to Hindu tradition, the date of Diwali falls on 15th day of the dark fortnight in the Hindu month of Kartik, or on the amavasya,the new moon that falls during the sign Scorpio in the western calendar, in October~November. During Diwali, celebrants wear new clothes and share sweets and snacks with family members and friends. Most Indian business communities begin the new fiscal year on the first day of Diwali. The Diwali Festival is celebrated over five days, while the third day is celebrated as the main Festival of Lights. On this auspicious day, people light up diyas and candles all around their house, and perform Lakshmi Puja in the evening seeking divine blessings of the goddess of wealth. The festival of Diwali also involves colorful fireworks displays and the exchange of gifts to dear ones. The lighting of earthen diyas (lamps) is a way of honoring God for the recent harvest and attainment of health, wealth, knowledge, peace, valor and fame. They express their happiness also by decorating their homes, bursting firecrackers and partaking in a sumptuous feast. In villages cattle are adorned and worshiped by farmers as they form the main source of their income. In south India cows are offered special veneration as they are supposed to be the incarnation of the goddess Lakshmi and therefore they are adorned and worshiped on this day. Lakshmi Puja is performed in the evenings when tiny diyas of clay are lighted to drive away the shadows of evil spirits, devotional songs in praise of Lakshmi are sung and Naivedya of traditional sweets is offered to the goddess. Diwali commemorates the return of Lord Rama along with Sita and Lakshman from his fourteen year long exile and vanquishing the demon-king Ravana. In joyous celebration of the return of their king, the people of Ayodhya illuminated the kingdom with earthen diyas (oil lamps) and burst firecrackers. It symbolizes the victory of righteousness and the lifting of spiritual darkness in celebration of the victory of good over evil ~ and the glory of light.