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Brief Summary


Diwali (pronounced dee-vah-lee) is celebrated by Hindus, Jains and Sikhs. It is a five day festival, with the main night of Diwali occurring on the third day.

The BBC writes, "The festival celebrates the victory of good over evil, light over darkness and knowledge over ignorance, although the actual legends that go with the festival are different in different parts of India.


Diwali is known as the 'festival of lights' because houses, shops and public places are decorated with small earthenware oil lamps called diyas. These lamps, which are traditionally fueled by mustard oil, are placed in rows in windows, doors and outside buildings to decorate them. The lamps are lit to help the goddess Lakshmi find her way into people's homes. They also celebrate one of the Diwali legends, which tells of the return of Rama and Sita to Rama's kingdom after fourteen years of exile. 

For many Indians the festival honours Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. People start the new business year at Diwali, and some Hindus will say prayers to the goddess for a successful year. Some people build a small altar to the goddess and decorate it with money and with pictures of the rewards of wealth, such as cars and houses. Hindus will leave the windows and doors of their houses open so that Lakshmi can come in.


Diwali is also used to celebrate a successful harvest. Traditionally sweets and dried fruit were very common gifts to exchange, but the festival has become more commercial. Diwali is also traditionally a time to clean and redecorate homes and buy new clothes."

[Source: BBC Web Archive] 


Late autumn, varies; usually late-October to mid-November. 


  • Celebrate the victory of good over evil, light over darkness.

  • Wish for good fortune for the coming year

Stories and Figures

  • Ramayana, the Hindu epic in which prince Rama defeats the evil demon Ravana and rescues his wife, Sita. 

A Primer for Nonpractitioners

A brief overview of Diwali

Diwali celebrations in India

The Legend of the Battle of Rama and Ravana


Ravana, who had ten arms and ten heads, was the wicked king of the island of Sri Lanka, who kidnapped the wife of Rama. Rama had been in exile for 14 years because of a disagreement as to whether he or his brother should be the next king in Ayodhya. After a great battle Rama killed the demon and recovered his wife. Rama's return with his wife Sita to Ayodhya and his subsequent coronation as king is celebrated at Diwali.


When Rama and Sita first returned to Ayodhya it was a dark moonless night and they couldn't see where they were going. Their people put little lamps outside their houses so that the new king and queen could find their way, thus beginning the tradition of the festival of lights. [...]

Hindus interpret the Diwali story based upon where they live. But there's one common theme no matter where people celebrate: the victory of good over evil."


17th Century painting of battle, British Library, public domain

Respectful Engagement through a UU Lens

The Hindu holiday of Diwali can provide UUs with spiritual reminders and lessons. Explore further for ways to engage in respectful ways with these lessons.

UU Deep Dive

Resonant UU Beliefs

UU Shared Values​

  • Generosity

  • Hope

UU Connections


These suggestions are intended for use by nonpractitioner UUs to learn from and appreciate this day. It is not meant to suggest what active practitioners would do, as they obviously have their own spiritual and cultural knowledge. It is also not meant to suggest that by trying these activities that one is celebrating the holiday or its traditions. We should approach any exploration with respect and humility, looking for teaching moments shared with us by our friends and neighbors that show us wisdom and enrich our lives. 

Find a Related Activity

Respectful activities allow us to better understand the gist of the days while respecting those who practice the tradition.

Festival Preparation
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