A diya, diyo, deya, deeya, dia, divaa, deepa, deepam, deep , deepak or saki is an oil lamp made from clay or mud with a cotton wick dipped in ghee. Diyas are native to the Indian subcontinent and they hold sacred prominence in Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist and Jain prayers as well as religious rituals, ceremonies and festivals including Diwali.
Clay diyas are symbolically lit during prayers, rituals and ceremonies; they are permanent fixtures in homes and temples. The warm, bright glow emitted from a diya is considered auspicious - it represents enlightenment, prosperity, knowledge and wisdom. Diyas represent the triumph of light over dark, good over evil with the most notable example of this being on the day of Diwali. Diwali is celebrated every year to celebrate the triumph of good over evil as told in the Hindu epic, the Ramayana. Diwali marks the day Lord Rama, Goddess Sita and Lakshmana returned home to Ayodhya after 14 years in exile, away from their home fighting and eradicating evil. To welcome Lord Rama, Goddess Sita and Lakshmana home, citizens of Ayodhya lit up the streets with diyas.
Traditionally, diyas are lit every morning within Mandirs.
Whilst lighting a diya, some also chant the Sanskrit mantra Shubham Karoti Kalyanam:
शुभं करोति कल्याणमारोग्यं धनसंपदा ।
शत्रुबुद्धिविनाशाय दीपज्योतिर्नमोऽस्तुते ॥
दीपज्योतिः परब्रह्म दीपज्योतिर्जनार्दनः ।
दीपो हरतु मे पापं दीपज्योतिर्नमोऽस्तुते ॥
Shubham Karoti Kalyaannam-Aarogyam Dhana-Sampadaa |
Shatru-Buddhi-Vinaashaaya Diipa-Jyotir-Namostute ||
Diipa-Jyotih Para-Brahma Diipa-Jyotir-Janaardanah |
Diipo Haratu Me Paapam Diipa-Jyotir-Namostute ||
I pay my salutation (namaskara) to the light / lamp which brings auspiciousness; prosperity, good health, abundance of money and wealth, and the destruction of the intellect’s enemy. The light of the lamp represents the Supreme Brahman as well as Janardhana (Vishnu), let the light absolve the sins, I pay my salutations to this light / lamp.
This shloka is recited while lighting the lamp. Light is considered a symbol of auspiciousness, prosperity, and abundance in many cultures. It is believed that deepam is the symbol of knowledge.
Lit diyas that are placed before Gods during prayer in temples and then used to bless worshippers is referred to as an aarti.
A similar lamp called a butter lamp is used in Tibetan Buddhist offerings as well.
Birth: The lighting of diya is also part of the Hindu religion rituals related to birth.
In terms of the choice of material, the kiln fired earthenware lamps followed by the metallic lamps with multiple wicks, mostly of brass known as Samai, are the most common, though other materials are also used such as patravali floating lamp made from leaves or permanent lamps made of stones.
In terms of wick design, diyas with one wick are most common, followed by the two wick style, but other variations such as four, five or seven wick lamps are also made.
In terms of overall lamps design, the ornamental lamps come in various designs. The iconic Nachiarkoil lamp, also known as "Annam lamp", is produced exclusively in by the Pather (Kammalar) community in Nachiyar Koil of Tamil Nadu.