Diwali celebrates the triumph of darkness over light [Photo: Getty Images]

The festival for new beginnings and the triumph of good over evil, Diwali kicked off on Saturday, November 14. With the ongoing pandemic, Sikhs, Hindus and Jains across the country will be finding ways to celebrate safely.

Traditions usually include setting off fireworks, lighting oil lamps, and visiting relatives, but the festival will have to be celebrated differently this year. If you’re unsure what the origins of Diwali are, here’s everything you need to know…

When is Diwali this year?

The date for Diwali changes every year to coincide with the new moon and the end of the summer harvest. The third day, known as the main Diwali, is the festival’s climax and is a national holiday in some countries. This year, the festival began on Thursday, November 12, with main Diwali celebrations scheduled for Saturday, November 14.

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What does Diwali mean?

The word ‘Diwali’ is derived from a Sanskrit word, Deepavali, which translates to “row of lighted lamps.” During the festival, those celebrating light small oil lamps called diyas, which are placed in shop windows, houses and public places. Fireworks and sweets are also used in celebrations, making the festival popular with children.

Diwali is known as the festival of lights and symbolises the victory of good over evil [Photo: SANJEEV GUPTA/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock]

What is the story behind Diwali?

Diwali celebrations differ between religions, as do the historical contexts behind each variant. For Hindus, celebrations centre around the return of Rama and Sita to Ayodhya after the deities had been exiled for two years.  Hindus also celebrate the day the demon Mahisha was destroyed by Mother Goddess Durga.

For Sikhs, Diwali includes celebrations of an important event in 1619, when sixth guru Hargobind Singh was released from the Mughal prison - although Sikhs did celebrate Diwali prior to this. Construction of the Golden Temple of Amritsar, the holiest place in the Sikh world, began during Diwali in 1577. For Jains, Diwali marks the point at which Lord Mahavira, the founder of Jainism, reached the state of Moksha (eternal happiness).

Releasing flying lanterns as part of the festivities in Punjab [Photo: Getty]

How do people celebrate Diwali?

Ordinarily, Diwali traditions include lighting candles, dining with relatives, setting off fireworks, and worshipping Lakshmi, bringer of blessings for the New Year.

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