Diwali also known as Deepawali, a Sanskrit word- means row of lights- is the festival of light. This festival is celebrated at the National Level and its preparation begins from Dussehra as it is common to hear the sound of crackers made by children in streets to make you remind that Diwali is approaching.
Diwali is the festival which is observed for five days and usually comes in the month of October/December when it is the darkest night of the month. This year it falls on 7th November.
There are many reasons for Hindus to celebrate this festival and harvest is among one of them. As this harvest of the kharif season i.e. mainly of rice, coincides this festival. Every harvest is celebrated with great joy and it is first offered as a gratitude to Almighty. Worship to the deity of the wealth and happiness – Goddess Laxmi is done by offering Poha – semi cooked rice as a custom in the North and West India .
This festival is celebrated at night and this night is generally the darkest night of the year. It is illuminated so much by the lights that no corner is left by dark. It shows the happiness of inside and out of a person. People welcome this festival by cleaning nook and corner of their houses, shops and surroundings as there is a strong belief that goddess of wealth Laxmi bestows her blessings to the place which is the most clean.
This festival is celebrated by many sects of Hindus according to their own reasons.
Mainly it is celebrates as to mark the welcome of Lord Rama to Ayodhya after defeating Ravana. Shri Ram- incarnation of Lord Vishnu returned to his capital Ayodhya in India after the exile of fourteen years. It is the great example of a son to keep a father’s vow to his stepmother Kaikeyi who was jealous of the coronation of Shri Ram as she wanted that her son Bharat would made king of that glorious kingdom. Bharat refused to this injustice planned by her mother and discarded the comfort of palace as his brother, Shri Ram was suffering in jungle. Lord Shri Ram killed Ravana and rescued his wife Sita on the day of Dussehra. He then returned to his capital exactly after twenty days on the day of dark fortnight of the month of Kartik. People of Ayodhya were happy and greet their king Lord Rama by turning this dark night into day by row of lights to show their happiness and greetings to their king.
The five day festival begins with the thirteenth day of the Kartik month known as tryodashi or teras or popularly known as Dhanteras- dhana means wealth and teras means thirteen. It is an auspicious day to buy gold, silver or any metal thing for the house like utensils etc. During this day lamps/diya are also lighted for lord Yama i.e. lord of death. This day is celebrated as Yamadeepdaan and a diya is kept burning whole night in the name of Yama to avert untimely death and for the welfare of the members of the family.
The next day is the fourteenth day of the month – chaturdashi- popularly known as narak chaturdashi - the day on which Lord Krishna killed Narakasura. This legend goes to the epoch of dwapar yuga when Lord Krishna killed the evil king of Pragjyotishpur. That evil king had kidnapped 16,000 daughters of gods and earrings of Aditi- the mother of gods. On the request of Gods, Lord Krishna fought a fierce battle with the evil king. After the mighty battle, he succeeded in killing the evil king and freeing the 16000 daughters and recovering the earrings of mother Aditi returned home. He was welcomed and bathed with scented oils. In some parts of India especially in Maharashtra this day is marked by taking special bath early in the morning after a full body massage of scented oil. This is known as abhyang-snan that includes herbs or ayurvedic items like sandalwood, manjistha, rose, camphor, orange peels and turmeric that are natural antiseptic. The sweets like kheer or sweet vermicelli and the sounds of fireworks add to the festive mood.
In the Eastern part of India this day pooja of Maa Kali is done with great enthusiasm. It is believed that on this day, Kali, the goddess of power killed the wicked demon Raktavija. This day Lord Hanuman is also worshipped by the offerings of sesame laddoos and sweets.
This day is also marked by the victory to Vamana Avtar – one of the incarnation of Lord Vishnu – over great demon king Bali- who was powerful and righteous demon king became threat to the universe.
The next day is the amavasya i.e. the day to celeberate Diwali. Entrance door is decorated with Torans and many other decorations made of artificial flowers, beads and floor is also decorated with traditional Rangoli. Puja is performed in the evening with lavishly decorated puja thalis that includes flowers, camphors, vermillion, sweets etc according to the family traditions. In south India camphor lit aarti is an integral part of pujas. Goddess Laxmi along with other Gods is decorated with gold jewelry and special Laxmi puja is performed. People wear new clothes and perform puja by offering rice, fruit, flowers, sweets and coconuts.
Feasting, gambling, family gatherings, lights and fire crackers mark the festival throughout the country. Gambling and drinking is part of this festival especially in West Bengal . The North Indian business community usually starts their financial new year on Diwali and new account books are opened on this day. Diwali gifts, sweets and dry fruits are distributed to well wishers and neighbors to share the happiness of this festival.
According to Skanda Purana Lord Shiva accepts Shakti to his left half and appeared as Ardhanaarishvara after the completion of the great vrat – kedara vrat that was kept by Maa Shakti for twenty one days.
Goddess Laxmi was incarnated on this holy day as a result of churning of the ocean – samudra manthan, therefore this day is associated with Laxmi poojan.
According to “Mahabharata” Pandavas appeared from their twelve years exile as a result of their defeat in the hands of the Kauravas during gambling.
Great Hindu king Vikramaaditya was coronated on this day.
Maharshi Dayananda, one of the greatest reformers of Hinduism and the founder of Arya Samaj attained his nirvana on October 31st, 1883 at Ajmer during the evening of Diwali.
Jains celebrate it as the day on which Mahavira attained Nirvana.
For Sikhs Guru Ram Das was born on 9 October 1534 in Chuna Mandi, Lahore . Also in 1577 the foundation stone of The Golden Temple was laid on Diwali. On Diwali 1619 the Golden Temple was illuminated with many lights to welcome home and celebrate the release of sixth Guru Hargobind from imprisonment in Gwalior fort.
Diwali is followed by Anna koota next day. It is also popularly known as Goverdhan Pooja. This pooja is offered to Lord Krishna as he saves the lives of people by the wrath of lord Indra. The people of Gokul commemorated a festival in honor of Lord Indra and worshiped him after the end of monsoon season every year. Lord Krishna persuaded people to pray fields and cattle from where they are benefited rather than to Lord Indra. Angry by this act of Lord Krishna, Lord Indra sent a torrent to sink Gokul. Lord Krishna lifted the mountain and held it as an umbrella for the people and saved them. Humbled by this act, Lord Indra, approached Lord Krishna to apologize. Annakoot means- hammered grains or porridge. Hammered maze is cooked in sweetened as well as salty form specially. A range of delicacies from karhi-chawal to kheer, doodh bhat and many more items are cooked on this day to offer Lord Krishna – commonly known as Giriraj ji or Bihariji. Giriraj ji appeared with a huge body, so the quantity of food he requires to be satiated has to be huge. Huge quantities of wide range of food items are offered at Raj Bhog – forenoon, which is then distributed among devotees as Prasad.
The last day of the festival is Bhai Dooj when sisters mark a tilak on her brother’s forehead and wish for his welfare and long life. This day Lord Yama – the lord of death- promised her sister Yamuna to have food at her home out of her love as he loved her sister Yamuna dearly. Some parts of north India paddy grass is also applied on the back of ear of brother and applying tilak to brother. Brothers, in their turn bless their sister and pamper them with loads of Bhai dooj gifts. The festival concludes with a grand meal and the exchange of gifts.
By this concludes the great five day celebrations of festival season.