Diwali: The Festival of Light

Published on November 5, 2013

On Sunday, November 3, Hindus, Jains, and Sikhs worldwide marked the beginning of the five-day-long celebration of light known as Diwali or Deepavali. As Diwali approaches, many Hindu families buy new clothing and clean and decorate their homes to welcome Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth (both material and spiritual). Westerners might think of Diwali as Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, and Hanukkah all rolled into one sparkling week of feasts, prayers, fireworks, decorations, and gifting.

The festival of Diwali stretches back to the ancient Ramayana epic. When the exiled ruler Ram returned to his kingdom after destroying the demon Ravana and rescuing Sita, he was welcomed with rows of burning lamps. Over the centuries, this festival also became associated with harvest and abundance, a time of giving thanks, and it spread to all regions of India and to non-Hindus, who associated the holiday with significant events from their own traditions. Today, Diwali is celebrated in many countries throughout world, including Great Britain and the U.S.

I’ve met many yoga students who prefer not to be reminded of yoga’s cultural roots or who are generally uncomfortable with spiritual references, but the deepest meaning of Diwali is universally understood. At its heart, Diwali celebrates the triumph of light (goodness, wisdom, hope) over darkness (evil, ignorance, despair). The image most strongly associated with Diwali is the deepa (a clay lamp), lit and arranged in rows (awali), a symbol of the light within each of us.

As yogis, our aim is to “lighten up,” purifying the body through asana, pranayama, and other practices. As the veil of ignorance lifts, we see the bright light within—the true self or Atman. This is the light we acknowledge when we greet each other by saying “Namaste.” We might save the candles and gifts for a holiday more familiar to our own family traditions, such as Kwanzaa or Christmas, but as we enter the darker months of winter, we welcome light and warmth into our lives. Similarly, when we experience darkness in our lives, we seek the light of clarity and wisdom—that’s a universal message for all seasonal celebrations.

How are you celebrating this time of year?

Share with


Our Latest

Yoga Articles
  • gratitude breathing exercise

    Elevate Your Spirit With a Gratitude Breathwork Practice

  • Hot Yoga at Home

    Can You Practice Hot Yoga at Home?

  • Saying Thank You to a Yoga Teacher

    12 Ways to Say Thank You to a Yoga Teacher

  • Yoga for Thanksgiving

    Yoga for Thanksgiving: 10 Asanas for Gratitude

  • Siddhis

    Siddhis: Definition, Types, Tips and Dangers

  • Spiritual Health and Wellness

    12 Yogic Ways to Cultivate Spiritual Health and Wellness

  • Bhakti Yoga

    Bhakti Yoga: the Yoga of Devotion

  • Sri Yantra

    Sri Yantra: Meaning, Symbolism, and Benefits

Remove Ads with a

Premium Membership

Viewing ads supports YogaBasics, which allows us to continue bringing you quality yoga content. Sign up for a premium membership to remove all ads and enjoy uninterrupted access to the best yoga resources on the web.

Explore More

Yoga TipsAdviceArticlesPracticesBasicsTechniques

  • yoga on carpet

    Practicing Yoga on Carpet: Pros, Cons and Top Tips

  • yoga for running

    Yoga for Runners: Top Tips and Best Benefits

  • The Robotic Evolution of Yoga

    The Robotic Evolution of Yoga

  • Yoga practice community

    How to Find Your Practice Community

  • Vinyasa Yoga Injury

    How to Avoid Common Vinyasa Yoga Injuries

  • daily yoga practice

    The Importance of a Daily Yoga Practice

  • Live a Yogic Lifestyle

    How to Live a Yogic Lifestyle

  • yoga balance tips

    The Best Tips to Boost Your Balance in Yoga

  • Techniques to Transform a Negative Mind

    6 Yogic Techniques to Transform a Negative Mind

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Kathleen Bryant Avatar
About the author
A former teacher and forever student, Kathleen Bryant swapped her running shoes for a yoga blanket in 1992, when she joined her first Hatha Yoga class in the back room of a local crystal shop. After earning a 500-hour teaching certificate from the International Yoga College, she taught anatomy, asana, and other subjects at 7 Centers School of Yoga Arts in Sedona, AZ. Kathleen is especially interested in the therapeutic aspects of yoga and continues to learn from Rama Jyoti Vernon, an amazing yogini who inspires her students to integrate yoga philosophy and mythology with contemporary life. An award-winning author, she has also published a children’s story, a cookbook, and books that focus on Southwest culture, travel, and natural history.
Yoga Basics