Diwali, also called Deepavali or the “Festival of Lights“, is an ancient Hindu festival celebrated in autumn every year.The festival spiritually signifies the victory of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, good over evil, and hope over despair. 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 Kartik. In the Gregorian calendar, Diwali night falls between mid-October and mid-November.

Before Diwali night, people clean, renovate and decorate their homes. On Diwali night, Hindus dress up in new clothes or their best outfit, light up diyas (lamps and candles) inside and outside their home, participate in family puja typically to Lakshmi – the goddess of wealth and prosperity. After puja (prayers), fireworks follow, then a family feast including mithai (sweets), and an exchange of gifts between family members and close friends. Diwali also marks a major shopping period in nations where it is celebrated.

Diwali is an important festival for Hindus. The name of festive days as well as the rituals of Diwali vary significantly among Hindus, based on the region of India. In many parts of India,the festivities start with Dhanteras, followed by Naraka Chaturdasi on second day, Diwali on the third day, Diwali Padva dedicated to wife-husband relationship on the fourth day, and festivities end with Bhau-beej dedicated to sister-brother bond on the fifth day. Dhanteras usually falls eighteen days after Dussehra.

On the same night that Hindus celebrate Diwali, Jains celebrate a festival of lights to mark the attainment of moksha by Mahavira, Sikhs similarly celebrate Bandi Chhor Divas,and Arya Samajists celebrate Shardiya Nav-Shasyeshti. Diwali is an official holiday in India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Mauritius, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Suriname, Malaysia, Singapore and Fiji.

8 unique facts about Diwali celebration in Odisha

1. Hati Ghoda Mithai (Sweets of different animal shape) – A special kind of sweets made of sugar available in different colours with shapes of various animals like Tiger, Lion, Elephant, Horse and many more.

2. Bada Badua Daka (Offering Puja to Late ancestors): A unique ritualistic ceremony to remember and pray our  Late ancestors on the eve of Diwali.

3. Goddess Kali Puja: Kali Puja is one of the major festivals of Odisha. The festival is celebrated in various cities of the state. 

4. Cuttack Kali Puja: The Kali Puja here is over 150-years-old. Just a fortnight after Durga Puja, the city braces up for Kali Puja that coincides with Diwali, a celebration of the victory of good over evil. If you like to watch immersion processions, then you must visit Cuttack during Kali Puja immersion to witness the long processions.

5. Chinna Mastaka Kali at Bhakrabad, Cuttack: The only puja committee that worships the ‘Chhinamasta’ form of the deity is the Bakhrabad Kali Puja Committee. Here, the deity holds her own severed head in one hand and a scimitar in another.

6. Chandi Medha at Cuttack Kali Puja: Unlike Cuttack Durga Puja, about 20 Chandi Medha’s are installed in different puja mandaps across the city.

7. Bhadrak Kali Puja: In Bhadrak, Kali Puja is celebrated in a grand way owing to the presence of Bhadrakali temple. Like Durga Puja in Cuttack, Kali Puja in this coastal town is a week-long affair that is witnessed by lakhs of people.

While a large number of devotees throng the Bhadrakali village, on the outskirts of Bhadrak town, several glittering pandals are erected in Charampa area to house the deity.

8. Bada badua Daka at grand road Puri: Puri , the land of Lord Jagannath witnesses a grand gathering on the day of Diwali. People from different parts of the state come here to observe ‘Badabadua Daka’.In the unique ritual, people gather outside the 12th century Jagannath temple and burn jute sticks (known as Kaunriya Kathi in local parlance) inviting their ancestors to descend from heaven on Diwali and bless them. The burning of jute sticks is accompanied by a prayer ‘Badabadua Ho Andhaare Aasa, Aalua Re Jao (Ancestors, come in darkness and go back along the lighted path). With thousands of bundles of jute sticks being lighted on the day, the Grand Road in front of the Jagannath temple offers a beautiful spectacle.

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