Hindu New Year is a holiday that goes by several different names. It’s known as Deepavali, Diwali, and the Festival of Lights. No matter what it’s called, however, it’s a holiday festival that lasts for approximately 5-days and is one of the most celebrated holidays in all of India, as well as in other Hindu communities around the world.
The Hindu New Year Festival also commemorates the seventh avatar — otherwise known as the seventh incarnation of Vishnu — along with a number of other gods. As is traditional with other New Year celebrations, this is a time that’s marked with feasting, overindulgence, and giving gifts.
The History Of Hindu New Year
In many Western cultures, New Year’s Day is a holiday that simply observes a change in the year on the calendar. However, there’s more going on with Hindu New Year than just advancing the year forward. It’s a holiday that’s also celebrated for religious and spiritual reasons as well. It’s a celebration of inner light and it’s for this reason that Diwali is called the Festival of Lights.
Since billions of people all over the world celebrate this holiday, it’s probably not surprising that not every single person celebrates it for the same reasons as everyone else does. For some people, it’s a commemoration of the marriage of Lakshmi and Vishnu, and other people celebrate it only as the birthday of Lakshmi.
Of course, because this is a holiday that’s been around for so long, and is a religious holiday as well, there are a number of gods and legends associated with it. People thank the god Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, for a successful harvest and to receive her blessings for the next harvest season. Another popular legend associated with this holiday is about the fifth avatar of the god Vishu, Vamana. According to this legend, Vamana returned home on this day to augment the blessing of the worshipers of Lakshmi.
In modern times, Hindu New Year has also begun to evolve into a larger celebration of Hindu culture. People decorate their homes with lights to honor Ramachandra’s victory. It’s also believed that Lakshmi roams the earth on this holiday and enters home with lights that are clean and bright.
How Hindu New Year Is Celebrated
This holiday is observed in numerous ways. First of all, many people will decorate the outside of their homes with bright lights and the inside with white rice flour drawings. It’s also traditional for people to gather with their loved ones and have a celebratory meal. In some communities, communal meals are not just at the family level but there are also large communal meals held by the village.
The first day of Diwali is usually punctuated with prayer, a harvest breakfast, and a procession of people carrying an image of Lakshmi. Communities will also hold special festivals complete with booths, food, and games. Over the next five days, there are more religious services, lamp lighting ceremonies, oil baths, and other special events.