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© Palak Mittal
© Palak Mittal

5 Diwali Customs and Traditions You Should Know About

Picture of Aditi Mukherjee
Updated: 29 November 2017

Diwali is one of the most celebrated festivals in India. Due to a large diaspora of Indians in other parts of the world like Trinidad, Tobago, Fiji, Singapore, and so on, Diwali is an official holiday in many parts of the world! Essentially, Diwali, or Deepavali, is the festival of light destroying darkness when good triumphs evil. Every Indian home prepares for Diwali in the ancient traditional ways and celebrates the festival with long-established customs. Here are some Diwali customs and traditions that you should know about.

What is Diwali?

Vedic scriptures mention the festival as Padma Purana, celebrated after the harvest season according to the Hindu calendar. Usually observed for five days, the first day of Diwali celebrations is called Dhanteras. In India, it is believed that buying jewelry (gold or silver) on this day is auspicious. The second day of Diwali is called Narak Chaturdasi, the 14th lunar day. Homes light 14 diyas to ward off evil. The third day is when Diwali is actually celebrated with family and 21 diyas are lit. On the 4th day, people celebrate Govardhan pooja, in remembrance of Lord Krishna who, in mythic tales, lifted Govardhan Hill to shelter the people in Vrindavan from heavy rain. The celebration ends with observing Bhai Dooj on the 5th day.

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An Indian lady keeping a total 21 diyas in all corners of her house to obliterate darkness |© Palak Mittal

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A decorated corner of a home during Diwali |© Palak Mittal 

House cleaning

It is an age-old norm to clean homes before Diwali. Indians believe that the Goddess Lakshmi only steps inside if your home is clean. This doesn’t just mean dusting the house. De-cluttering things, painting your house, and re-decoration is also a part of it, depending on your budget.

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Sweets are kept on offer to the Goddess Lakshmi |© Palak Mittal

Shopping

Long before Diwali, the women in traditional families go shopping. It is the norm to wear new clothes on each day of celebration. It marks respect and excitement for the festivity. Men dress in traditional kurtas and, sometimes, dhoti, but it’s the women who steal the show! It’s the time of the year when women love to show off their new wardrobe collection.

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A pandit mixing oil in vermillion red powder, a necessary item for Diwali pooja |© Palak Mittal 

Diwali sweets

Diwali is a time to let go of any diet regimes or exercise routines one has! The five days of celebration have loads of food, especially sweets! Chakli, peda, barfi, and laddoo are common during celebrations. Almost all sweets are made with broken pieces of dry fruits.

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It is an ancient practice to pray with flowers in the palm of one’s right hand |© Palak Mittal

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Before the pooja, all the necessary items are gathered in one place |© Palak Mittal

Rangoli

During the five days of celebration, people decorate their home with rangoli, a colorful artwork made with rice powder. Rangoli powder comes in many colors and the porch of one’s home is decorated with beautiful designs. It is is another way to ring in the festive spirit.

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A traditional Diwali pooja in progress |© Palak Mittal

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A pandit performs “aarti” during Lakshmi Pooja |© Palak Mittal 

Exchanging gifts and playing cards

It is a tradition for families to exchange gifts during Diwali. The festival is one time in the year when families from all parts of the world reunite. Close and extended families pay visits at one another’s place for hours of banter, card playing, and gifts!

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© Palak Mittal

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© Palak Mittal