Diwali — Indian Festival of Lights
The history of Diwali is replete with legends and these legends are moored to the stories of Hindu religious scriptures, mostly the Puranas . Though the center theme of all legends points out to the classic truth of the victory of the good over the Evils, the mode of their presentation and to characters differ, Diwali, being the festival of lights, lightning the lamps of Knowledge within us means to understand and reflect upon the significant purpose of each of the five days of festivities and to bring those thoughts in to day to day live.
The Five days of Diwali
The first day of Diwali is called Dhanvantri Triyodashi also called Dhanteras. The second day is called Narah Chaturvedi. On this day lord Krishna destroyed the demon Narakasura and made the world free from fear. The Third day of Diwali is actual Diwali. This is the day when worship for Mother Laxmi is performed. On the fourth day of Diwali Govardhan Puja is performed. The fifth day of the Diwali is called Bhratri Dooj, it is a day dedicated to sisters.
The story of Ram and Sita, Lord Rama was a great warrior king which was exiled by his father Dasaratha, the king of Ayodhya, along within wife Sita and younger brother Laxman on his wife’s insistence. Lord Rama returned to Ayodhya after 14 years of exile, in which put an end to the demon Ravana of lanka who was a great Pundit, highly learned but still evil dominated his mind. After the victory of good over evil, Rama returned to Ayodhya. In Ayodhya, the people welcome them by lighting rows of clay lamps. So, it is an occasion in honour of Rama’s Victory over Ravana, of Truth’s victory over Evil.
The story of King Bali and Yamanavatar (the dwarf ) — the other story concerns King Bali, who was a generous ruler, But he was very ambitious. Some of the Gods pleaded Lord Vishnu to check King Bali’s power. Vishnu came to earth in the form of Vaman (dwarf) vested as priests. The dwarf approached the King Bali and said,” you are the ruler of the three worlds the Earth, the World above the skies and the ruler world. Would you give me the space that I could cover with three strides” King Bali laughed. Surely a dwarf cannot cover much ground, thought the King, who agreed to dwarf’s request. At this point, the dwarf changed into Vishnu and his three strides covered the Earth, the Skies and the whole universal King Bali was said to underworld. As part of Diwali, some Hindu remember King Bali.
The defeat of Narkasur by Lord Krishna — Lord Vishnu in him, 8th incarnation as Krishna destroyed the demon Narkasura who was causing havoc in the world. Narkasura was believed to be a demon of filth cowered in dirt. He used to kidnap beautiful women and forced them to live with him. Eventually their cry for rescue were heard by Vishnu, who came in the form of Krishna. First Krishna had to fight with a five headed monster who guarded the demon’s home. Narkasura hoped that his death might bring joys to others. Krishna granted his request and the women were freed. For Hindus, this story is a remember that good can still come out of evil.
Krishna and the Mountain — In the village of Gokula, many years ago, the people prayed to the God Indra. They beleieved that Indra sent the rain, which made their crop grow. But Krishna came along and persuaded the people to worship the mountain Govardhan, because the mountain and lands were fertile. This did not please Indra. He sent thunder and torrential rain down on the village. The people cried to Krishna to help. Krishna saved the villagers by lifting the top of the mountain on his finger. The offering of food to God or this day of Diwali is a reminder to Hindus of the importance of food and it is a time for being thankful to God for the bounty of nature.
DIWALI FOR SIKHS
In Sikh perspective Diwali is celebrated as the return of the Sixth Guru, Guru Hargovind ji from the captivity of city, Gwalior, to commemorate the dying love for Sikhism, the town people lit the way to Harmandir Sahib (Golden temple) in his honour.
DIWALI FOR JAINS
Jain celebrate Diwali as Nirvana of Lord Mahavira who established the Dharm as we follow it. Lord Mahavira was born as Vardhamana on Chaitrashukla 13th in the Nata clan at Khattiya Kundrapura near Vaishali (Bihar).He obtained Kevala Gyan on 10th at the Jambharana village on the banks of Rijukula river at the age of 42.
CELEBRATIONS IN INDIA
“Diwali’’, the festival of light, illuminates the darkness of the New year’s moon and strengthen our close friendship and knowledge, with self realization.
Diwali is celebrated on a nation wide scale on Amarasya — the 15th day of the dark fortnight of the Hindu Month of Ashwin ( Oct — Nov) every year, it symbolizes that age old culture of India which teaches to vanquish ignorance that subdues humanity and to drive away darkness that engulfs the light of Knowledge, Diwali, the festival of light even today in this modern world projects the rich and glorious past of India.
Every year on the dark nights of Diwali the sound of fire crackers announce the celebration of the favourite festival of Indians. Homes are decorated, sweets are distributed by everyone and thousand of lamps are lit to create a world of fantasy. Of all the celebrations in India, Diwali is by far the most glamorous and important. Enthusiastically enjoyed by people of every religion, its magical and radiant touch creates an atmosphere of joy and festivity.
The ancient story of how Diwali evolve into such widely celebrated festival is different in various region and states of India. In the north, particularly in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Bihar and the sorrunding areas, Diwali is the day when King Rama’s coronation was celebrated in Ayodhya after his epic war with Ravana, the demon king of lanka. By order of the royal families of Ayodhya and Mithila, the Kingdom of which Sita was princess, the cities and far flung boundaries of these kingdom were lit up with rows of lamps, glittering on dark nights to welcome home the divine King Rama and his queen Sita after 14 years of Exile, ending with an across the seas war in which the whole of the Kingdom of Lanka was destroyed.
On the day of Diwali festival, doorways are hung with torans of Mango leaves and marigolds. Rangolis are drawn with different coloured powder to welcome guests. The traditional motifs are often licensed with auspicious symbols of good luck. Oil diya is arranged in and around the house. Because of these flickering lamps the festivals has acquired its name. Diwali or Dipawali meaning a “row of lamps”. On this day, People buy something for the house or some jewellery for the women of the house. It is auspicious to buy something metallic, such as silver.
Whatever may be the fables and legends behind the celebrations of Diwali, all people exchange sweets, wear new clothes and buy jewellery at this festive time. Card Parties are held in many home. Diwali has become commercialized as biggest annual consumer spree because every family shops for sweets, gifts and fireworks. However in all this frenzy of shopping and eating, the steady, burning lamp is constant symbol of an illuminated mind.
These following States of India celebrate Diwali in their own way. Assam, Bihar, Delhi, Jammu & Kashmir, Punjab, Orissa, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Goa, West Bengal, Tamilnadu, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala and Karnatka.
Given below are some examples of differences in celebrations across states:
Diwali celebration in Assam
The largest of the States in North-East is Assam whose Capital is Guwahati, has an inspired location on the banks of the River Brahamputra. Amid Assam’s verdant lushness and wild sanctuary much of the rest of the State is devoted to tea Plantation which yield the strong Assam leaf popular all over the World.
The celebration of Diwali in Assam ranges from the diyas arranges from the diyas and mithai to singing Aarti with the whole family and then celebrating with fire crackers, then celebrating with Fire crackers the epic moment that symbolizes the victory of good over Evil. People also pull out the little electric lights to substitute for diyas and light up the house early.
Countless flickering oil lamps and lights are lit in house all over Assam, making it a night of enhancement. Worship of laxmi and fireworks and festivities are an essential part of the celebration. Beautiful lamps are hung outside homes that are symbolises of the spiritual light dispelling evil and the darkness of ignorance.
Doorways are decorated with torans and flowers garlands and the mango leaves and marigolds. Rangolis are drawn with coloured powder to welcome guests. Business establishment and families perform chopda puja or veneration of their business books. Everyone feasts and shops and starts new projects and venetures.
Diwali calendar in Assam
First Day : Dhanteras Yamadeepan
Second Day: Mahanisha (kali Puja)
Third Day: Diwali Mahanisha / Kali Puja
Fifth Day: Bhai Dooj
Diwali celebration in Bihar
1st day : Dhanteras Dhantrayodash.
2nd day : Chhoti Diwali
3rd day : Laxmi Puja
4th day : Govardhan Puja
5th day : Kojagra ( Chitragupt pooja )
Like many ancient Civilization the way of life in Bihar is clustered around its magnificent rivers. Few rivers of the world have mould the culture, economy and personality of the people evolving on their banks as has the great river Ganga. In Bihar, the celebration of Diwali starts two days before the actual Diwali as dhanteras celebrated in the honour of Dhanvantri, the physician of the god. He is believed to have emerged with a pot of amrita during Samundra Manthan.
On Dhanteras, new Kitchen utensils bought and kept at the place of Worship. The buying of utensils, according to one theory relates to the myth of Dhanvantri emerging from the ocean with a pot in his hand. People bath early in the morning and observe a fast which is broken only after sunset with sweat with puri and other delicacies.
The day before Diwali is celebrated as Chhoti Diwali or “ Small Diwali”, the women of the house make beautiful, coloured Rangoli in the doorway and courtyard. The foot print made out of Rice paste are a special feature of the Rangoli made for Diwali. They signify the foot prints of Laxmi, as She enters the house.
Songs in the honour of deities are sung and aarti is performed. Oil and ghee diyas are also lit. The gods are offered Kheer, Batasha and Khilone and various sweet meals. After the Pooja, the diyas are placed in and around the house, on the doorway, near Tulsi Plant, in the backyard. In every room and at the back and front gates. After this, Crackers are burst and people meet friends and neighbours and exchanges good wishes and sweets.
The Adivasi of Jharkhand worship Kali on this day. Eating unripe coconut and taking a beetle in considered as auspicious.
On 5th day and 6th day after Diwali and Chhath festival, the most prominent festival of Bihar is celebrated. Sun God is worshipped in the evening of Pancham and in the morning of Kashti in the river/pond.
Diwali Celebration in Delhi
Diwali Calendar :
1st day : Dhanteras
2nd day : Choti Diwali,Rupchaturdashi
3rd day : Laxmi Puja, Bandichhor Diwas
4th day : Govardhan Pooja, Annakoot
5th day : Bhai Dooj
In Delhi, Diwali festival start at Dusshera. From then on, as people set out on a frantic spree of shopping, spring cleaning white washing and redecorating the shops and market place embark on frenzy of sales and promotional offers. Market places are festooned with streamers, mela and fair crop up everywhere. Many people buy new clothes to wear on Diwali and on the day of Dhanteras traditionally, a kitchen utensils of some kind is purchased.
On Diwali day, shops in Delhi remain open till afternoon, believing that good sales on Diwali day predict a prosperous year ahead. In the corporate sector, the process of buying and distributing Diwali gifts begins several days before the big day, and slowly picks up pace. Sweets and dry fruits are the most common gifts, as are silver coins. But gifts also range from Silver dishes and other household gifts to suit pieces.