Diwali: The Festival of Light and New Beginnings

10th November 2023

UKZN Extended Learning

– by Ayanda Radebe

Diwali, also known as the Festival of Light, is celebrated by Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, and Newar Buddhists globally. Diwali is the brightest and most significant festival in the Indian diaspora in South Africa. It holds a deep cultural and religious significance as it celebrates new beginnings (new year) in the Indian culture.

Diwali celebrations differ amongst various communities but still have the same spiritual meaning: “the awareness of the inner light”. It is also the beginning of the new financial year for the Hindu business community.[1]

Many Hindus worldwide celebrate Diwali with gift exchanges, fireworks, and festive meals to express love, gratitude, and appreciation. Traditional gifts exchanged may include sweets, dry fruits, etc. The Diwali celebration in India occurs when the monsoon season ends and the weather is mild and pleasant. According to the Hindu calendar, Diwali is celebrated around the 15th day in the month of Kartik, which in the year 2023 will be celebrated on Sunday the 12th of November.

Since Diwali represents a new year and new beginnings, people try to pay off their old debts, make or buy new clothes and thoroughly clean their houses as part of the festival preparations. Before Diwali, it is customary that house exteriors are usually whitewashed and sometimes decorated with new designs drawn in white rice flour and filled in with colour. Homes are traditionally illuminated by lights with oil-burning bowls called ‘dipa’ lights or, more recently, with strings of artificial lights.

As South Africans, during this time of celebration, we are reminded of the teachings of Hinduism and its universal call for tolerance and goodwill towards all people. This includes principles that can guide us and help contribute to social cohesion in our rainbow nation so that we continue to be compassionate and generous to all people.

Diwali is a time of joy, celebration, and spiritual renewal, which brings families and communities together in the spirit of love and harmony. We wish you a Happy Diwali and New Year!

[1] https://www.hindustantimes.com/business/financial-lessons-to-glean-this-diwali-101666257721147.html