Celebrated every year around the autumn months of October and November in India, the Hindu festival of lights Diwali or Deepavali is among the most popular Hindu festivals in the world, signifying the victory of light over dark.
In Sri Lanka, Hindu temples come alive with special offering rituals – from the lighting of hundreds of small lamps to eliminate shadows from one’s house and life. It is also termed as the Festival of Lights. This festival has a sublime significance, for it symbolizes the victory of good forces over evil forces.
This year, Diwali falls on Thursday 19th October, and is easily the most eagerly awaited festivals in Sri Lanka amongst practicing Hindu’s.
From Past to Present
Diwali dates back to ancient times in India, originally a summer harvest festival – the Persian traveler and historian Al Biruni, in his 11th century memoir on India, wrote of Deepavali being celebrated by Hindus on New Moon day of the month of Kartika.
Today, Diwali is associated with being among the happier holidays in India – a time for gift exchanging, family time, temple rituals and sprucing up the house in preparation – for the visually iconic pattern making on floors, near doors and walkways.
In Sri Lanka, Diwali is mostly celebrated by the Tamil Hindu community scattered in different areas of the island but mostly concentrated in the north, east and hill country. Hindu temples of significance include the Nallur Temple in the island’s Northern Jaffna peninsula and Koneshwaram Temple of the island’s eastern sea front town Trincomalee. In the tea country, particularly in close proximity to Koslanda, the landscape is dotted with more modest Hindu temples, but each with its own burst of color and architecture that will feature lit lamps – symbolicof the Diwali celebration. The festival preparations and rituals typically extend over a five-day period, but the main festival night of Diwali coincides with the darkest, new moon night of the Hindu Lunisolar month Kartika in Bikram Sambat calendar.