The historic origins of Deepavali, as the festival was known in the past, can be traced back to the ancient times. It was most probably an important harvest festival; however, what really make its origins interesting are the various religious and mythological legends that are attached to it. The true meaning of this festival lies in its name itself, Deepavali, which is a Sanskrit word made by combining two words "deep" and "vali". The former means light while the later stands for row; thus Deepavali, signifying "row of lights". The lighting of earthen lamps, candles and creating luminance through all means, right from light bulbs to firecrackers, is the most significant part of Diwali celebrations. Usually celebrated in the months of October or November according to the Hindu calendar, the date of Diwali keeps changing every year.
Deepavali is a great unifying factor in India - a wonderful commonality in this land of diversities. This festival is celebrated all over the country in various styles, with each region having its own customs and particular rituals. However, the basic concept lies behind the victory of light over darkness, that symbolizes the fact that good will always triumph over evil. The celebrations of this festival are not limited to one religion, caste or culture; they transcend beyond all barriers of languages and regions. Even in this age of deadlines, materialism and stress, people find and make time to celebrate and carry out the rituals with their near and dear ones. Diwali festivities last for around five days as they bring a plethora of other occasions like Dhanteras, Narak Chaturdashi, Govardhan Pooja and Bhai Dooj, along with them. These occasions are also celebrated all over India in distinct ways, though their basic essence remains the same.
This festival has a deep spiritual significance as well. Deepavali just doesn't celebrate outer illumination but also represents "the awareness of the inner light". Atman, the pure conscious being, which lies within the body and yet is not part of the physical body, it is pure, infinite, and eternal, is the core of Hindu philosophy. Spiritually speaking, Diwali celebrates the victory of knowledge over ignorance, ignorance that veils one's powerful soul in the corporal body made from five elements. With the awakening of this inner self comes enlightenment, which brings unending and infinite happiness in one's life. Thus, Diwali celebrates the realization of this inner light. As such, the essence of this festival lies in discovering and rejoicing the inner light i.e. Atman that lies in each individual and makes one kind, truthful and loving towards one and all. This is a festival of giving and sharing boons of life with not just friends and family, but with the needy and deprived as well.
The festival of Deepavali also presents a wonderful occasion for all to meet each other and get over all misunderstandings of the past. Various doubts and ill feelings are cleared between friends and family members during the congenial atmosphere created at this festival. This festival inculcates feelings as well as values of togetherness and universal brotherhood. Besides these morals, on Diwali, most people participate in some charity work, be it distributing new clothes, warm blankets or food to the underprivileged. Employers, including multinational corporations, go an extra mile in pleasing their employees recognizing the importance of this festival and gifting them bonuses as well as other items to generate goodwill. People try to inculcate good habits in themselves like waking up early, keeping houses as well as workplaces perfectly clean and visiting their respective places of worship as often as possible. Thus, Diwali is not just about shopping or eating various traditional delicacies. What one must learn to celebrate is its core essence and become the embodiment of the different values of goodness and kindness, which truly illuminate a person from within.