Deepavali / Diwali: The Festival of Lights

Deepavali festival

Deepavali or Diwali is the most celebrated festival in Hindu tradition. It is also celebrated in Jain, Sikh and Buddhist communities. It is called as festival of lights. Deepavali is the sanskrit word which means series of lights (‘Deepa means the light and ‘avali’ means line or series). The essence of the festival is to celebrate the good over evil and wisdom over ignorance. Generally it falls between end of October and mid November every year. As per Hindu calendar, the main festival falls on Amavasya day in the month of Kartika.

The number of days the festival is celebrated differs from place to place. It is celebrated from 1 to 5 days. The main festival of diwali on 3rd day is celebrated across the country with great joy and enthusiasm. The celebration starts 21 days after Dusshera. The five day celebration of Diwali starts on Aswayuja bahula Trayodashi (13th day of shukla paksha Moon) and concludes on Kartika shuddha Dwitiya.

Celebration

Before the festival, people clean their house and decorate the place with torans or mango leaves. Rangolis are drawn with coloured powder. It is also the time for buying new items for  house and also cloths. People also buy Gold and Silver articles according to their capacity. It is believed that buying Gold and Silver on this day is very auspicious. People buy gifts for family and relatives which includes cloths, sweets, dry fruits or any other expensive items.

House is decorated with diyas and lamps. Prayers are offered to God and pujas are performed with devotion and enthusiasm. Sweets and gifts are distributed with family members,  relatives and neighbors. In the evening, diyas and clay oil lamps will be arranged around the house. Electric lamps will also be used to decorate the surrounding. Whole of the place is illuminated with lights. Goddess Lakshmi is worshipped for the welfare of family and everyone. Fire crackers are burst by everyone. People of all age groups participate with joy and enthusiasm. Children will be doubly happy in bursting crackers.

Significance of Deepavali

There are many versions or stories associated with the celebration of the festival. It is believed that Goddess Lakshmi was born during the churning of the cosmic ocean which is called as samudra manthan by the gods and demons. And also on this day Goddess Lakshmi married Lord Vishnu. In another version it is believed that Lord Vishnu has rescued Lakshmi in his 5th incarnation of Vamana from the King Bali. This is the reason Goddess lakshmi is worshipped on this day.

There are many other legends associated with the celebration of festival. According to Ramayana, the day is marked with the return of Lord Rama along with wife Sita and brother Laxman to Ayodhya after killing Ravana, the king of Lanka. According to Mahabharata, on this day of karthika amavasya, the Pandavas returned to Hastinapura from their 12 years of vanvas or exile.

The five day celebrations

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Diwali festival

 

First day of Deepavali begins with ‘Dhan Trayodashi’ or ‘Dhanvantari Trayodashi’,  popularly known as ‘Dhanteras’. Dhanteras is mainly celebrated in Northern and western parts of India. It is celebrated to worship the Goddess Lakshmi (Goddess of wealth) and Goddess Dhanvantari (Goddess of Health and Healing). People buy Gold and Silver articles on this day. In the evening Lakshmi Puja is performed.

Second day of is celebrated as ‘Naraka Chaturdashi’. In northern India, it is also called as ‘Choti Diwali’. The day is marked as the defeating of demon Narakasura by Lord Krishna and his wife Satyabhama. House is decorated and colourful rangolis will be put on the doorway. In the early morning fragrant oil bath will be taken. Worshipping of Lord Krishna and Lakshmi puja will be performed. Family members will get together. Sweets and gifts will be shared with each other.

On third day, main diwali is celebrated. There will be all round festivities at home. Early morning fragrant oil bath will be taken and house is decorated. Worshiping is done to Lord Ganesha, Goddess Lakshmi and Lord Kubera. In some parts Goddess Kali is worshipped.  Lakshmi Pujan is performed in the evening for blessing of wealth and prosperity. Sweets and gifts will be shared with relatives, friends and neighbors. At night, the home and surroundings are illuminated with diyas, lamps, electric lamps etc. The dark night will be illuminated completely as if it is a bright night. Fire crackers will be burst.

Fourth day is known as ‘Bali Padyami’or Padwa. According to mythology, it is believed that the King Bali from hell will come to Earth to rule for one day as per the boon given by Lord Vishnu. Bali was a tyrant king who was eliminated by Lord and sent to hell. This day also is marked the beginning of the new year in some parts as the day saw the coronation of King Vikramaditya. It is also celebrated as Govardhan Puja, worshipping Lord Krishna. In some parts, people make Govardhan or a mountain in a cow dung and worship it. It is believed that Lord Krishna has lifted Govardhan parvat to save people from unnatural rain.

It is said in scriptures that ‘bhagini gruhe bhojanam’ which means newly married couple will visit their wife’s parents place. Special meal will be prepared and served to new couples. The day is a symbolic of the love between wife and husband.

Fifth day is the conclusion of the festival and is called as ‘Yama Dwitiya’ or ‘ ‘Bhai Dooj’. It marks the celebration of sister and brother relationships. Sisters will invite their brothers to celebrate the festival. Sisters will perform puja for the safety and well being of brothers and in return brothers will give gift to the sisters.

Spiritual Significance

In a spiritual level, the Diwali festival is celebrated as victory of light over darkness which symbolises wisdom over ignorance. As light spreads and removes darkness, knowledge removes ignorance. The light shows the path for the soul. It also teaches us that light within us should be illuminated over the ignorance so that it helps in the self to experience the bliss. It is also the time for spiritual transformation. The festival symbolizes unity and giving. The festival brings everyone together irrespective of age and class. It encourages people to share and give one’s belongings. It is the best time to do meditation on this day along with other religious functions.

Significance of Gambling

There is a tradition of playing gambling on this day in some parts. As per one legend, Goddess Parvati played dice with her husband Lord Shiva. As per her boon, anybody who have gambled on this day would gain in the coming year. In India, stock markets will be open for trading on this day for 1 hour. It is believed that trading on this auspicious day will ensure prosperous days ahead. Many traders will buy stocks on this day and hold for the next year.

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