Diwali – a festival celebrated globally

Diwali is a festival of lights, is derived from Sanskrit fusion word Dipavali, formed from dipa means light or lamp and avali means series, line or row.

The celebration of Diwali as the "victory of good over evil” refers to the light of higher knowledge dispelling all ignorance, the ignorance that masks one's true nature, not as the body, but as the unchanging, infinite, immanent and transcendent reality. With this awakening comes compassion and the awareness of the oneness of all things, and knowledge overcomes ignorance. 

The festival is mentioned in the Padma Purana (c. 701–1200 CE), the Skanda Purana (c. 701–1200 CE), and other Sanskrit Hindu scriptures. Deepavali is much more than just a festival. Diwali, for Sikhs, marks the Bandi Chhor Divas, when Guru Har Gobind freed himself and Hindu Kings, from Fort Gwalior, from the prison of Islamic ruler Jahangir, and arrived at the Golden Temple in Amritsar. Ever since then, Sikhs celebrate Bandi Choorh Divas, with the annual lighting up of Golden Temple, fireworks and other festivities. Diwali has special significance in Jainism. Mahavira, the last of the Tirthankar of this era, attained Nirvana on this day at Pavapuri on 15 October 527 BCE, on Chaturdashi of Kartika. According to the Kalpasutra by Acharya Bhadrabahu, 3rd century BC, many gods were present there, illuminating the darkness. Therefore, Jains celebrate Diwali as a day of remembering Mahavira.

Diwali is an official holiday in India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Mauritius, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Suriname, Malaysia, Singapore and Fiji.

World leaders widely greet Hindus on the occasion and various reports can be seen.

Singapore Prime Minister Mr. Lee Hsien Loong has tweeted: “Today is Deepavali, Hindu Festivals of Lights. I wish all celebrating it a bright and joyous Deepavali.”

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott stated, "Happy Diwali. It is a time to enjoy good food and entertainment, and to celebrate the bonds we share with family and friends. It is also an opportunity to reflect on the meaning of Diwali - the triumph of light over darkness".

US President Barack Obama celebrates Diwali in White House since he assumed Office in 2009. Below is the transcript of the President’s video message:

I want to wish a Happy Diwali to all those who are celebrating the festival of lights here in the United States and around the world. For Hindus, Jains, Sikhs and Buddhists, lighting the lamp—the diya—is a chance to remember, even in the midst of darkness, that light will ultimately prevail. Knowledge will defeat ignorance, and compassion will triumph over despair. Diwali is also a reminder that we must each do our part to achieve that victory, by dedicating ourselves to service to others. If we affirm our commitments to one another and strive to lift each other up, then together, we will continue moving closer to that brighter future we all seek. 

America is a great and diverse nation, strengthened by the contributions of all our people. I was proud to host the first Diwali celebration at the White House back in 2009. Since then, we’ve continued to mark this holiday to honor the rich traditions that define the American family. And I know Michelle and I will never forget the wonderful time we had celebrating Diwali in Mumbai with food, dancing, and the company of friends. 

So, to all the families gathering together this Diwali to reflect on all the blessings of the past year, I wish you a joyous celebration and Saal Mubarak. 

John Kerry, the Indian Ambassador to the US lighted the traditional Diwali lamp stated, “We are two optimistic nations who believe that history doesn't shape us, but that we have the power to shape history. And that spirit of hope and optimism is really at the centre of the Diwali celebration. It is an opportunity for us all, regardless of our own traditions, to renew a shared commitment to human dignity, compassion, and service," he said.

Tulsi Gabbard, US House Representative in her Diwali wishes, “The essence of Diwali is love for God, bhakti yoga. This love for God flooded the hearts of the residents of Ayodhya upon Lord Rama’s return from exile. And it can fill our hearts as well. No matter who we are, no matter what our race, religion, economic status, gender, age, or any other material consideration, each of us can use our lives in the loving service of God. This is one of the great lessons of the Ramayana….”

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown celebrated Diwali at the 10 Downing Street, and his wife lit a lamp placed amid idols of Lord Rama, Krishna from the Swaminarayan Mandir. “This is a great day for Downing Street, a great day for us and a great day for Britain to welcome you to celebrate Diwali for the first time in Downing Street,” Brown said. 

Photo courtesy: The Hindu
The Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism & Taoism (MCCBCHST) also hoped that this year's Deepavali celebration would spur the rediscovery of FRATERNITY among the divided societies. 

"As co-religionists, we live in a world too often torn apart by selfishness, ethnic rivalry, violence and religious fundamentalism. Yet we are called in a spirit of co-operation to respect and to defend our shared humanity in a variety of socio-economic, political and religious contexts," MCCBCHST said in a statement. It added that the world was witnessing a growing sense of common humanity and a global quest for a more just, peaceful and FRATERNAL world, adding however the fulfilment of these hopes depended on recognition of universal values. "Let us dialogue and meet each other in order to establish a culture of dialogue in this beloved nation of ours. We pray that the celebration of Deepavali will be an occasion to rediscover FRATERNITY a new, especially in our divided societies," the body said. 

Vatican Council President Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran in his statement released a message wishing Hindus around the world a "Happy Deepavali 2014."

"As Hindus worldwide celebrate Deepavali or Diwali, the festival of lights, on October 23, the Vatican has called on Hindus, Christians, followers of other religions and people of good to foster together a culture of inclusion for a just and peaceful society," said the message from the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

The Vatican also highlighted the theme "Fostering together a culture of 'inclusion'", stressing that nurturing it "can be rightly seen as one of the most genuine aspirations of people everywhere" at a time when discrimination, violence and exclusion is rampant around the world.

"...may we, Hindus and Christians, join together with followers of other religions and with people of good will to foster a culture of inclusion for a just and peaceful society," it said, adding, "We wish you all a Happy Deepavali!"

Pakistan Government too celebrates Diwali. Bilawal Bhutto, Chairman of Pakistan Peoples’ Party was present at the temple. Kiran Kumar S (@KiranKS) tweeted:

For the first time, Pakistan celebrates Diwali officially through the govt. Bilawal Bhutto was present at a temple! pic.twitter.com/ZzdEjGC4Ta

— Kiran Kumar S (@KiranKS) October 24, 2014

Celebrities like Paulo Coelho, a Brazilian lyricist and Novelist has tweeted: “Happy Diwali my Hindu friends! May the lights shine in your lives every single day”.

Happy Diwali my Hindu friends! May the lights shine in your lives every single day pic.twitter.com/cvqmuCdW9L

— Paulo Coelho (@paulocoelho) October 23, 2014

Cutting across religions, nations, races etc the festival Deepavali is making a significant impact in the lives of millions of people across the world.

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