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The importance of Diwali, India’s festival of lights, and where you can celebrate in Mass. and R.I.

Here’s a basic guide with what you need to know about Diwali, the importance of seva, and where you can celebrate with great Indian food in Rhode Island and Massachusetts

Hindu devotees offer money at a temple during Diwali, the festival of lights, in Hong Kong, on Thursday, Nov. 4, 2021. Diwali is one of Hinduism's most important festivals, dedicated to the worship of the Hindu goddess of wealth and good fortune, Lakshmi.Kin Cheung/Associated Press

PROVIDENCE — Diwali, which is known as the “Festival of Lights,” is a holiday that is celebrated in India by people of many faiths, as well as across the Hindu Diaspora.

Deriving from Sanskrit, “Diwali” means “a row of lights,” and families and festivals illuminate lights, candles, clay lamps known as diyas, and firecrackers.

The bright, twinkling lights are meant to symbolize the victory of good over evil, knowledge over ignorance, and inner light over spiritual darkness, according to The Hindu American Foundation.

Here’s what you need to know about one of the world’s most celebrated holidays.

When is Diwali this year?

The festivities last for five days, beginning on the 13th day of the dark half of the lunar month Ashvina and running to the second day of the light half of the lunar month Karttika. The largest celebration is usually on the third day of Diwali, which this year lands Monday, Oct. 24.

Here are the upcoming dates of Diwali:

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  • 2023: Oct. 12
  • 2024: Nov. 1
  • 2025: Oct. 21

Who celebrates Diwali?

Diwali is largely celebrated by people of Indian heritage, Hindus, Jains, Buddhists, Sikhs. Each faith has its own historical legends and events, but the holiday still represents the same symbolic victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance.

Hindu devotees light oil lamps at a temple during Diwali, the festival of lights, in Hong Kong, Thursday, Nov. 4, 2021. Diwali is one of Hinduism's most important festivals, dedicated to the worship of the goddess of wealth Lakshmi.Kin Cheung/Associated Press

Why is Diwali important?

Diwali commemorates the day Prince Rama of Ayodhya, his wife Sita, and his brother Lakshman return after being exiled for 14 years. The prince was considered to be an incarnation of this Hindu Lord Vishnu and an embodiment of dharma (righteousness) and Sita an incarnation of Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth. good fortune, and prosperity.

The residents of Ayodhya are said to have been overjoyed by their return of their king and lit lamps in his honor, which made the city illuminate, resembling a “row of lights.”

Some Hindus also commemorate Diwali as the day Lord Krishna defeated the “demon king” Narakasura.

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Diwali also coincides with the Hindu New Year in some regions of India.

What is the importance of selfless service during Diwali?

As homes and streets are illuminated during Diwali’s festivities, it’s also a time for charitable giving (also known as dana) and selfless service (also known as seva). Seva is important in the Hindu faith, where common acts include donating to charities, volunteering for causes you believe in, feeding those who are less fortunate, and finding ways to help those who are suffering.

If Diwali is five days long, how is it celebrated during the other four days?

  • Day one: During the first day, many worship to Goddess Lakshmi. People can clean their homes; make kolam or rangolis, which are colored patters on the floor using rice or sand, flowers, or powder; go shopping; and make sweet Indian treats.
  • Day two: On the second day, people typically decorate their homes and clay lamps and displayed.
  • Day three: The third day is usually the height of the celebration. Some people will wear new clothes, perform a worship service at a temple, light clay lamps around the house and keep all the lights on, enjoy fireworks, and eat an array of food.
  • Day four: “Annakut” is the first day of the new year in some regions of India. Many celebrate it by exchanging gifts, while others take time to be grateful for what they have and share with others.
  • Day five: “Bhai Duh” is dedicated as a “siblings day” to honor sister-brother bonds.

Is Diwali a national holiday in the US?

No. But lawmakers introduced the “Deepavali Day Act” bill last November that would declare Diwali a federal holiday.

Food from Masala Bay in Littleton, Mass.Mike Saunders

Where in New England can I order food from to support Indian restaurants for Diwali?

Some Indian restaurants in Rhode Island:

  • Kabob and Curry in Providence. What to order: Paneer and pepper makhani ($13), tandoori shrimp ($16), Aldo gobhi ($13).
  • The Punjab in Johnston. What to order: Coconut fish curry ($17), chili naan ($4), methi chicken with fenugreek leaves ($16).
  • Rasoi in Pawtucket. What to order: Cauliflower 65 ($9), grilled rice crepe with jackfruit masala ($12), tawa shrip ($10), and lamb galouti ($8).
  • India Restaurant in Providence. What to order: The Thali feast ($17) every Saturday and Sunday until 3 p.m., which features pappadum, kale cucumber salad, jeera pulao, freshly baked garlic naan, shahi kheer, and tamatar ka shorba with ripened plum tomatoes, ginger, and coconut milk.
  • Chaska in Cranston. What to order: The “Date Night” package ($60) for two every Monday evening, which features a choice of an appetizer like chili cauliflower and avocado sweet potato chaat, two entrees of your choice (like jackfruit kofta, lamb biryani, tikka masala, and more), and served with basmati rice, truffle oil naan bread, a bottle of red or white wine, and dessert.

Some Indian restaurants in Massachusetts:

  • Masala Bay in Littleton. What to order: Chicken korma ($16), mango chi jalfrezi ($15), and pineapple curry ($15).
  • Himalayan Bistro in West Roxbury. What to order: Mulligatawny soup ($5), jeera saag ($15), and malai Kofta ($17).
  • India Pavilion in Cambridge. What to order: Samosa chole Chaat with raita ($8), keema chili masala ($16), goat vindaloo ($17).

Alexa Gagosz can be reached at alexa.gagosz@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @alexagagosz and on Instagram @AlexaGagosz.