Photo Credit: Udayaditya Barua via Unsplash

The festival of Diwali derives its name from the Sanskrit term dipavali, which means “row of lights’’. Levashni Naicker shares what the celebration means to her and her family.


South Africa (06 November 2023) – The smell of incense sticks, the vision of clay lamps lit outside my house and the excitement of wearing new clothes are some of the memories I have from Durban during Diwali. It always felt like Christmas came early by celebrating Diwali in October or November. My family and I indulged in the annual rituals of baking Indian delicacies like ladoos, jalebis, barfis and chana magaj and shopping for a new Punjabi suit or sari for the day; the brighter the colours, the better! Some would draw rangoli –– beautiful designs made of coloured rice, sand, or flower petals –– on the ground near the entrance of the homes to welcome the gods in and bring good fortune.

Photo Credit: Suchandra Roy Chowdhury via Unsplash

It was a time for the coming together of our family and friends, and we celebrated by visiting each other and exchanging brightly coloured gift parcels of sweets, dressed up in our best, and the evening would end by gathering outside to watch the entire sky illuminate with fireworks (over the years huge displays have been restricted to reduce noise pollution).

This year, Diwali will be celebrated on 12 November. The significance of this auspicious day in the Hindu calendar symbolises the victory of light over darkness and good over evil. The festival derives its name from the row (avali) of clay lamps (deepa) that Indians light outside their homes to symbolise the inner light that protects them from spiritual darkness.

The history of Diwali, as celebrated in Northern India, commemorates the return of Prince Rama and his wife, Sita, to Ayodhya after being exiled for 14 years. Sita was kidnapped by the demon king, Ravana, but Prince Rama was able to rescue her after she left a trail of jewellery for him to follow. According to the Hindu tradition, Prince Rama is the human incarnation of Lord Vishnu, God of preservation. Sita is the human incarnation of Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth and good fortune. It is believed that she took on different forms to be with him during his incarnations. The residents of Ayodhya lit lamps for Rama and Sita to light their path home in honour of their victory, and this is why this part of the festivities is still practised today.

For some, Diwali also coincides with the Hindu New Year, so it’s a time for cleansing and new beginnings and hence worshipping Goddess Lakshmi for good fortune and prosperity.

Diwali falls on a moonless night in the lunar month of Karthik, one of the holiest months in the Hindu calendar. On a night of a new moon, the light from the lamps and fireworks shine brighter and greatly symbolises the triumph of light over darkness.

This year, I look forward to celebrating my son’s second birthday, which coincides with Diwali. Looking back over the years, the meaning of Diwali for me was not defined by the extravagant food or other luxuries of the day but by the feeling of a warm hug from a family member and the joy of hearing laughter exude from your home while we let the light shine in.

1. https://www.natgeokids.com/uk/discover/geography/general-geography/facts-about-diwali/ 2. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Lakshmi 3.https://www.trafalgar.com/real-word/diwali-story/ 4. https://www.vedantu.com/stories/diwali-festival-of-lights 5. https://artsandculture.google.com/story/the-story-of-diwali-museum-of-art-photography/GQWxp_hpPG_4Pg?hl=en 6. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/history/article/diwali-history-customs-indian-festival-of-lights#:~:text=In%20northern%20India%2C%20Diwali%20commemorates,by%20the%20rival%20king%20Ravana 7. https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/holidays/a37680263/what-is-diwali-history-story-celebration-facts/ 8. https://www.history.co.uk/articles/the-history-of-diwali 9.https://www.britannica.com/topic/Diwali-Hindu-festival

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About the Author

Tyler Leigh Vivier is a writer for Good Things Guy.

Her passion is to spread good news across South Africa with a big focus on environmental issues, animal welfare and social upliftment. Outside of Good Things Guy, she is an avid reader and lover of tea.

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