The festive season will be at its peak this month as people gear up to celebrate the grand festival of lights or Diwali or Deepavali. This year, Diwali will be celebrated on Saturday, November 14.

The year’s most-awaited Hindu festival comes at a time when India and the rest of the world are facing the worst public health crisis in a century with the COVID-19 pandemic. The spiritual message that Diwali holds — “victory of light over darkness, good over evil and knowledge over ignorance” — cannot have more consonance to our lives than this time.

The five-day-long festivities will kick off with Dhanteras on November 13, which concurs with the Trayodashi Tithi (Thirteenth day), Krishna Paksha (waning phase of the Moon) of Kartik Maas (Kartik month) on the Hindu calendar. On this day, devotees worship Lord Kubera (god of wealth), Lord Dhanvantari (god of medicine), and Goddess Lakshmi (goddess of wealth and fortune). On the day of Dhanteras, it is auspicious to buy silver and gold ornaments/utensils and most Indian households make big-ticket purchases.

The second day of Naraka Chaturdashi when Lord Krishna is said to have killed the demon Narakasura. This will fall on November 13 and this is the main Diwali day for south Indian Hindus.

The main Diwali day the rest of the country is on the third day which will be on November 13 this year. On this day, Goddesses Lakshmi and Saraswati and Lord Ganesha are worshipped. It marks the celebration of the day Lord Ram, accompanied by his wife Sita and brother Lakshman, returned to his native town of Ayodhya after 14 years of exile and his win over Ravana, which also symbolises the victory of good over evil.

The Govardhan Puja will be observed on November 15 when Lord Varuna, Indra and Agni will be worshipped. On this day, people express their respect and gratitude towards Mother Nature for their well-being. During the Puja, water, fruits, incense sticks and oblation are offered to Govardhan. Also on this very day, animals used for agricultural purposes are also worshipped.

The last day of the festival is dedicated to celebrating the bond between brother and sister called Bhai Dooj which will fall on November 16 this year. On this occasion, the sister applies a tilak and prays for her brother’s long life and good fortune. The brother in turn presents her with gifts and sweets are exchanged.

Diwali is marked with fireworks and the decoration of floors with rangoli designs. Food is a major focus with families partaking in feasts and sharing sweets. The festival is an annual homecoming and bonding period not only for families but also for communities that organise gatherings. Although this year, celebrations and gatherings are expected to be muted thanks to the health crisis.