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What does Diwali (the festival of lights) really mean?
Diwali celebrates the victory of good over evil. The word itself refers to earthen lamps that are lit in order to symbolize how individual goodness and knowledge can triumph over ignorance. Many Hindus celebrate the return of Lord Rama (an incarnation of Lord Vishnu) from 14 years of exile along with his brother, Lakshman, and his wife, Sita. In celebration of his return, residents of Ayodhya lit many lamps. Other Hindus also celebrate how Lord Krishna slew the demon Narakasura with the help of his consort, Satyabhama.
The light that emanates from lamps on Diwali also symbolizes how the darkness within associated with lust, anger, ego, and laziness can be destroyed by the power and beauty of knowledge and faith.
What is the significance of Holi (aka festival of colors)?
Phalgun Poornima of the Hindu Calendar is the day of Holi. This festival is associated with certain past events. Holika, the sister of Hiranyakashipu, worked with her brother to get rid of Prahlad, the greatest of devotees. Hiranyakashipu was already annoyed with his son for constantly thinking of Vishnu as god instead of him. Holika decides to tie Prahlad to herself and sit in a fire. She believes that her boon from Brahma will protect her from the fire. Instead, Vishnu protects Prahlad and destroys Holika. Based on this story, the festival is supposed to represent the victory of good over evil. The colorful nature of Holi is traced back to Krishna’s past time of playing with colors as he interacted with the Gopis.
What is the significance of Navaratri?
Navaratri means "nine nights" (nava means nine and ratri means night). It is a festival usually celebrated in October but sometimes in September. It focuses on the worship of different aspects of the Divine Mother, or Devi. By worshipping Devi we are praying for power, wealth, and knowledge to purify ourselves and have the courage to go from the known to the unknown.
The first three nights are for the worship of Durga. Praying to Durga is to give us strength in all aspects, whether physical or mental. By praying to Durga, we can cultivate power to destroy our negative tendencies.
The next three nights are for the worship of Lakshmi. Praying to Lakshmi is for wealth. Wealth does not mean just anything physical like money; rather, it means positive tendencies for the mind. These positive qualities are called Daivi Sampat, which literally means Divine Wealth.
The last three nights are for the worship of Saraswati. Praying to Saraswati is for knowledge. One who has positive tendencies or the Divine Wealth is fit for receiving Supreme Knowledge.
After nine nights, the tenth day is called Dussehra, or Vijayadashami. Vijay means victory, and Dasha means ten. This day is to commemorate the victory of good over evil.