Diwali in 2014 will start on Tuesday, the 23rd of October and will continue for 5 days.
The word Diwali is a contraction of Deepavali, originating from the Sanskrit word Dipavali (?????) which can be translated to Row of Lights. Hence the Diwali Festival is also called the Festival of Lights. Diwali is the name for the festival in North-India. In South-India the festival is called Deepavali.
Diwali celebrates to victory of the Good over the Evil and Light over Darkness. Is has a major religious significance for Hindus, Sikhs and Jains alike – not only in India, but also for Indians living abroad. In the western (gregorian) calendar, Diwali falls on a day in October or November every year – just after the monsoon season in India.
The exact date varies and is being calculated based on the Hindu Luni-Solar calendar (according to the positions of the Sun and the Moon). The day of Diwali falls on Ashvina Amavasya (the lunar day of new moon) on 15 Ashvin (Hindu month). This date also marks the beginning of the Hindu New Year, and many businesses in India starting a new accounting year on the Diwali holiday.
Diwali is a festival over 5 days:
On the first day (Dhanteras) people pray to Goddess Laxmi for prosperity and wealth.
The second day (Choti Diwali) is also known as Small Diwali, Naraka Chaturdashi or Kali Chaudas in some states. According to the legend, Lord Kirshna killed the evil daemon Narakasura on this day. People worship Goddess Lakshmi and Lord Rama.
The third day is the actual day of Diwali℘. Many devotees visit their Temples for worshipping Lakshmi, Goddess of beauty, wealth and wisdom with Laxmi Poojas and also pray to Ganesh, the Lord of Beginnings and Remover of Obstacles. When Aarti is performed, oil lamps with a cotton wick are placed on a Puja Thali and offered to the deities, praising the deity by singing wonderful Aarti songs. At night people light up little oil lamps called Diyas, Dipa Lights or Ghee Lamps and place them around their houses. They hang colorful lanterns and fairy lights, enjoying firework displays or blasting firecrackers.
The fourth day (Padwa) is 1 Kartika in the Hindu calendar and is also known as Govardhan Puja or Annakoot. It is said that Krishna defeated the god of rain and the heavens Indra on that day. He lifted Mount Govardhana to save peoples life from the floods. On this day people cook mountains of food resembling Mount Govardhana. According to another legend followed in South-India, Vishnu defeated the demon-king Bali on this day.
Finally the fifths and last day of Diwali is called Bhaiduj (Bhai Dooj) also known as Yama Dwitiya. This is the day for brothers and sisters to strengthen their relationships. Just like Yami prayed for her brother Yama (God of Death), sisters are praying for their brothers well-being on this day, and brothers give little gifts to their sisters in return.