The five days of Diwali
Diwali varies across cultures, religions and regions. Find out about the five days of Diwali, the celebrations on each day and the stories behind them.
Dhanteras (Day of fortune)
Images of Lakshmi, goddess of fortune, are worshipped. Fortune refers to general well-being and prosperity as well as to money and valuables.
Money is ceremonially purified by washing it in milk, to symbolise the renewal of good intentions towards it and the motivation to use it to benefit family and the greater good. It is also a time for sharing wealth with those one considers deserving and to replace feelings of greed with generosity. This spiritual reinvigoration makes it an auspicious day for buying gold and silver, often jewellery, so this day is also a major shopping day.
Naraka Chaturdasi (Day of knowledge)
The day is related to the traditional story of Lord Krishna slaying the demon Narakasura and rescuing 16,000 captive princesses.
As the princesses' chastity could be called into question, Lord Krishna married them all. The story shows that God wishes to take care of his people and offer them protection. Rice is used to make rangoli patterns on or before the day.
Diwali (Day of light)
Fireworks are lit to mark the high point of the festival. It is the last day of the Hindu year in many regions, when businesses close old accounts.
On this day, Lord Rama rescued his wife from the demon Ravana after an epic battle. When he returned home, his people lit up his path home so he could return in the dark. Today, candles are lit to show the triumph of good over evil and homecoming. Gujarati Indians among others also light lamps in their windows to welcome Lakshmi into the home.
Annakut (New Year)
Food is piled up at Hindu temples as an offering to Krishna in the festival of Govardhan Puja.
The mountain of food is symbolic of Govardhan Hill. In this traditional story, Krishna lifted the hill to shelter villagers from a flood caused by the vengeful Indra, King of Heaven. The same as Indra, Hindus learn to be humble in the face of the divine.
Bhai Duj (Day of love between siblings)
Brothers commonly give their sisters gifts on Bhai Duj
This was traditionally one of the few days when brothers could visit their married sisters' homes, to ensure they were being well cared for. Much of the traditional gift-giving during Diwali is from men to women. This is to show them respect and offer them protection. In the past if a husband or father died, the jewellery he had given to his wife and daughters would save them from destitution.