The Story of Diwali and the Significance of Gifting Sweets

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Is it true that sweets are integral part of Diwali celebration?  Have you ever thought why we give sweets on Diwali?  Is this just a tradition or is there something else? 

Diwali Celebration with LightsIt is hard to imagine celebrating Diwali without thinking about giving sweets.  From your neighbor to your best friend, it is the must have gift that you buy to celebrate the occasion. But, have you ever thought to yourself, “Why do we give sweets on Diwali?”

To know the importance of giving sweets, first you need to know the story of Diwali. So, before discussing the significance of gifting sweets, let us dig into the reasons why we celebrate this beautiful festival of light.

The Five Stories of Diwali

Did you know Diwali is celebrated differently in different parts of India?  There are five different stories related to Diwali.

Among these five stories, the famous and well-known one is the story of Ramayana. According to this story, we celebrate Diwali to commemorate the return of Lord Rama with his wife Sita and brother Laxman to their homeland Ayodhya.

ramayanaLord Rama as per his father’s order was living in exile with his wife and brother in forest.  During the final years of the exile, Ravan, the evil Asura king kidnapped Sita.  In a furious battle to save Sita, Rama defeated Ravan and returned to Ayodhya. It is this day we celebrate Diwali.  It’s a reminder of the win of good over evil.

As per Ramayana, the people of Ayodhya were happy to hear the news and they decorated their houses with diyas and gave mithai (sweets) to celebrate this happy occasion.

In another story, we celebrate Diwali to remember the return of Pandavas to their homeland after living in exile for a long time.

The Return of PandavasIn a tricky gambling game, Kauravas defeated Pandavas and were ordered to live in exile. After 13 years of life in forest, Pandavas returned to Hastinapura. According to Mahabaratha, the people of Hastinapura were happy to see them and illuminated their houses with lamps, and distributed sweets to celebrate the joyous moment of their return.

According to another legend, Diwali is celebrated to remember the wedding anniversary of Lord Vishnu and Godess Lakshmi.

Vishnu and LakshmiDuring the time of Samudra Mathan (Churning of Ocean), in search of Amritha, many valuable things came up. One of the things that arose was Goddess Lakshmi, daughter of the Ocean. The same day, Lord Vishnu married Lakshmi.

As it was an auspicious occasion of marriage of Gods, heaven and earth were lit with lamps. Sweets were also exchanged to celebrate the cheerful occasion.  And this tradition still continues when we celebrate “Lakshmi Pooja” during Diwali.

According to a different story, Diwali celebrates the victory of Lord Vishnu over the asura King Mahabali.

VamanaLegends say Mahabali was an asura king who became famous among people of earth as the result of his good work.  During the reign of Mahabali people were happy and were prosperous. The king was loved and respected.

The envious Devas feared that if Mahabali continued to rule the earth, he would become more powerful and become undefeatable with all these devotion and respect.  So, they approached Lord Vishnu to find an answer to this trouble.  Lord Vishnu disguised himself as a Brahmin boy (Vamana) and pushed the king to Pathala.

In some parts of India, Diwali is celebrated to remember this victory.  As in any other festival, exchange of sweets is part of the celebration.

Another tale also exists, especially in Eastern/Southern parts of India.  In this story, we celebrate Diwali to remember the victory of Sri Krishna over the evil king Narakasura.

Narakasura and KrishnaIt is believed Narakasura was a powerful and a greedy king.  When his actions became unbearable, Lord Indra requested Lord Vishnu for help.  In a furious battle, Lord Vishnu in form of Sri Krishna killed Narakasura. Before death, Narakasura requested for a boon that people of earth should celebrate his death anniversary.  This is the day, we celebrate “Naraka Chaturdashi” during Diwali.

We celebrate this day by bursting crackers and by exchanging sweets.

The Significance of Giving Sweets on Diwali

As you just read, all of these stories have some sort of celebration in it. Four out of five times, Diwali is a celebration of good over evil and on another occasion, it is the wedding anniversary of gods.

Diwali SweetsWhen there are such joyous times, what we Indians typically do?  We treat each other with sweets – an obvious reason to exchange sweets.

Diwali also marks the end of harvest season of the year.  This time, farmer-households assess the rewards from their crops. Farmers are thankful for the plentiful bounty of the year gone by, and when you have such a good harvest, you would share your happiness with everybody else – a good reason why we started exchanging gifts and sweets.

That said this is not the only reason why we gift sweets. Diwali also means start of a new year. It also marks the beginning of a new farming / business year.  We welcome New Year by firing crackers, wearing new clothes, visiting temples and exchanging sweets.

In short, the sweets we give at time of Diwali are for wishing our friends and family a prosperous and happy new year. After all, who doesn’t love a sweet year ahead?

So what is you take on gifting sweets on Diwali?  Is it important to give sweets? Can we replace sweets with something spicy (say pakoda)?  Share your opinions with us.

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