Diwali is derived from the Sanskrit "deepāvali" (lit. "row of lights"), often translated as "the festival of lights". As with all Hindu holy days, Diwali is a celebration of astrological significance. Diwali marks the darkest night of the year in the Hindu lunar month of Ashvin, and signals the beginning of the lunar month of Kartika. Diwali is celebrated across a span of five nights with the actual night of New Moon occurring on the third night, the most significant night of the celebration.
In the northern hemisphere, the Sun entered tropical Libra on the autumn equinox. On Diwali (Oct. 19, 12:12pm PST), the Moon will be exactly conjunct the Sun in the sign of Libra, and also joined by Venus. The Sun and Moon will both be in the nakshatra of Chitra, the star of opportunity. Thus, on the darkest night of the year, devotees will light the lamps of devotion, illuminating the night with the ecstasy of worship, celebrating the triumph of light over darkness.
What is really significant about Diwali is not its traditions or rituals, but its universality. Diwali is a celebration of light during a time when the two luminaries (Sun and Moon) are casting minimal light upon the Earth. Yet, in the face of apparent darkness, the Divine Light shines ever-bright--and this is the ecstatic knowledge in which devotees rejoice on Diwali.
It has also been nearly 2 months since the August solar eclipse. We have all personally and collectively (as a nation) had to face our shadows, on one level or another. It is only by facing our shadows that we can step into the light. Thus, while we seem to stand eclipsed, may we all see and celebrate the Light on this auspicious Diwali.
Wishing everyone a Happy Diwali!