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Why do we celebrate Diwali?

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Diwali is a festival of lights celebrated by Hindus and Sikhs.

We all know the story of Diwali: it is the Hindu festival celebrating wealth, knowledge and family that falls on November 3rd in 2018. What we don’t always realize though, is that “Diwali” means “rows of light.” On this day, people celebrate by lighting rows of lamps and candles to represent each person’s path to enlightenment. The lamps are said to signify hope for humankind’s future.

Families gather together on the eve of Diwali to eat sweets, play games, and light candles. During the day of Diwali, people visit temples and give gifts to friends and family members.

Diwali is also called Deepavali or Dipawali. It is one of the most important festivals for Hindus, along with Holi (celebrated in March) and Dussehra (in September).

While Hinduism is most often associated with Indian beliefs, Hindus can be found in countries like Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Mauritius. Hinduism is the oldest religion in the world and it has more than one billion followers worldwide. Hinduism is an incredibly diverse faith and it is impossible to generalize its many different practices. However, Hindus share a belief in reincarnation. They believe that when one dies their soul enters a new body or form for continued life. The life cycle of humans and animals is repeated over and over again until you become free from karma (actions) so that you can attain moksha (ultimate freedom). At this time, your soul merges with Brahman (the ultimate reality) and you cease to exist as an individual.

Hindus also believe in the presence of many gods and goddesses. The most important Hindu gods and goddesses include: Shiva, Vishnu, Brahma and Durga. Followers of Hinduism believe that all life is sacred and that it is their duty to serve humanity.

A common ritual that has been practiced by Hindus for thousands of years is praying before an idol. Idols can be made from clay, stone or metal. Idols are often very colorful and often represent a god or goddess like Shiva or Vishnu. Most Hindus carve their own idols which are usually kept at home until the family is ready to perform the puja (worship). The puja is a ceremony that can take anywhere from minutes to hours depending on the size of the idol.

According to tradition, the puja is performed in front of an idol. The worshipper offers flowers, rice, water and food to the idol before making offerings to the rest of their family members and friends. It may also be accompanied by music and dancing. Once the puja is complete, many Hindus will go to a river or other body of water where they will release their offerings into the water along with coloring powders, coloring liquids or flower petals.

Today Diwali continues to be celebrated in homes around the world by Hindus and Sikhs (a branch of Hinduism). Day after Diwali Hindu households will remove the lamps and candles they have used for Diwali and store them in the attic or garage away from children. Three years later, Hindu families will do it all again.

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