Diwali is celebrated on a no-moon night (Amavasya). It is the darkest night of the Indian autumn, falling in the Hindu lunar month of Karthika. So it’s a tradition to light oil lamps all around during Diwali. Diwali literally comes from the Sanskrit word Deepavali meaning row of lights.
Amavasya (no moon day) is considered to be auspicious in South India. It is said that Goddess in Her form of Laxmi (Goddess of wealth) resides in sesame oil on a new-moon day. Hence the ritual to apply sesame oil on one’s body before bathing on the Diwali morning.
Diwali, basically revolves around the Goddess Laxmi. She is specially worshipped on this day according to the sacred rites.
Hindus regard wealth as an important part of life. Artha is the word for material prosperity in Sanskrit. It is one of the four goals an individual should pursue in his lifetime in order to attain fullness in one’s life, the scriptures say. The four Goals are Dharma (right conduct), Artha (wealth), Kama (sexual gratification), and Moksha (self-realization or God-consciousness or Nirvana)
So Wealth forms an integral part of the Hindu faith, a goal well-worth striving for.
Hence the diyas (tiny earthern lamps) are lighted in honour of Goddess of Wealth specially, on Diwali, to seek Her blessings.
Kerala is perhaps the only state in India where Diwali is not celebrated by most people. The reason for this can be found in history. Hindus in Kerala never engaged in trade, it was basically people from other Indian states and people of other religions like Jew settlers and Christian converts who engaged in trade. As Diwali is basically a festival mostly celebrated by the merchants, the tradition of celebrating the festival in kerala was non-existent. It is sad that this very disregard for material prosperity once again found its expression in a support for Communism in the State and thus the state had the world’s first democratically elected communist government. Even to this day, entrepreneurship in Kerala is hard to find among the masses and Communist strikes in almost every commercial establishment is common. It scares away Industrialists and foreign Investors from investing in the state. Thus my dad emigrated to Mumbai. Its common to find Malayalis (inhabitants of Kerala) all over the world working hard, away from home, to make a living.
Lets hope that this festival of lights brings us Light, love, happiness, peace and prosperity.