Diwali is among one of the most awaited festivals for all of us. In the South, in the North, among young and old, friends and family- we all find ourselves waiting eagerly for the celebration of this 5 day festival every year! It stands for fresh beginnings, a new start and self improvement. For most of us, it's the crackers that we look forward to. For others, it's the Diwali delicacies! For those of us who stay away from home, it is the sole reason to make that annual trip back to one's family!
This year, Diwali will be celebrated on 17th November. This day marks the beginning of the new year in the Hindu calendar. It is also always celebrated on the day of the new moon or Amavasya. Often, it is said that this night is the darkest one of the whole year! It is the fifteenth day of the Kartika month of the Hindu calendar. Although it is celebrated throughout the country on one common day, there are areas that celebrate this festival a little late. In Himachal Pradesh, a few districts such as Shillai and Chopal celebrate Diwali a whole month after it has been celebrated by the rest of the country. And thus, it is called 'Budhi Diwali', meaning old Diwali! The reason for this, as they say, is that after Ram returned, it took time for the news of his re-arrival to spread to all parts of the kingdom. Especially for the mountains in the north, the news took an especially long time to reach. Although they also took part in the celebrations immediately on receiving the news, it still happened a month later than the rest of the kingdom.
The main theme that runs along why Diwali is celebrated by most religions is the victory of goodness over evil. 'Diwali' or 'Deepavali' means 'row of lights'. In north India, the day commemorates the return of Lord Ram, his wife Sita and his brother Lakshman to Ayodhya after having lived in exile for 14 years. The entire kingdom of Ayodhya was lit up with diyas for their welcome. And so, it became a tradition!
In the South, people believe that Lord Krishna killed the evil demon, Naraksura, on this day and rendered his thousands of prisoners free.
In the West, it is believed that this auspicious day is celebrated because Lord Vishnu has defeated the demon king, Bali, and had sent him away to rule the underground realm (called 'Lok Patal' in Hindu culture) and thus helped Indra regain his rule over the heavens. People also believe that this festival celebrates the marriage of Vishnu and Lakshmi.
And finally, in West Bengal, the Goddess Kali is worshipped. Being the dark goddess for strength and power, she is offered prayers by people for well-being and prosperity.
All in all, we all participate in the pomp and joy Diwali has to offer for different reasons but it is a festival that binds all of us together!
The festivities of Diwali go on for 5 to 6 days. Each day has its own tale to tell. The festivities begin with Dhanteras, which is also known as 'Dhanvantari Triodasi'. The name comes from two words 'dhan' and 'tera', which stands for 'wealth' and 'thirteen', as it on the thirteenth day of the Hindu calendar. It is a day devoted to celebrating wealth. People usually buy gold and utensils around this time. Some also worship Lord Ganesha, Lord Kuber and Goddess Lakshmi on this day. Dhanteras is preceded by houses and business premises being thoroughly cleaned and renovated or painted.
After this, on the second day, comes 'Choti Diwali', which is also often referred to as 'Naraka Chaturdasi'. Naraksura was killed on this day by Krishna, Satyabhama and Kali. In south India, Diwali is celebrated on this day itself, whereas for the rest of India, it is the day after this that is considered as the main festival. People draw rangolis outside their homes and burst crackers. In Bengal, Orissa and Assam, Kali puja is celebrated widely on this day too.
The main festival is on the third day, which this year falls on 17 November. People light diyas and candles all around their homes, set off fireworks, exchange sweets and gifts and of course, perform Lakshmi Pooja together! This day marks the Hindu New Year.
The fourth day involves businessmen opening new accounts for the financial year and it also remembers the God Bali who had been sent to the lower realm.
The fifth and final day is known as 'Bhai Duj' or 'Bhaiya Duj' and is mainly devoted to celebrating sisters. Siblings get to celebrate the bond between them. Although this festival is similar to Rakhi, the rituals are quite different. Throughout the day, women get together and perform a puja for the well being of their brothers. Gift giving and eating good food follow! In the Rig Veda, Lord Yama's twin is Yami. After having spent a long time apart, Yama visited his sister's home, only to be left extremely impressed with her hospitality. Yami welcomed her brother and put a tilak on his forehead. Yamraj offered her his blessing and then declared that if a brother greets his sister on this day, his sister would have a long life.
Lakshmi Pooja on the Day of Diwali
Legend says that Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and good fortune in Hindu culture visits her devotees on the night of Diwali and blesses them. She is the wife of Vishnu. To greet her, people clean their homes in and out, decorate it with the finest lights and prepare delicacies for her. Since it is widely known that the goddess likes cleanliness, people worship the broom with offerings of haldi and sindoor during Diwali.
Lakshmi Pooja is performed on the third day of Diwali, which is said to the most auspicious day. The most auspicious time in the day is during 'pradosh kaal' or evening time on amavasya tithi.
Five deities are worshipped on this day: Lord Ganesha is worshipped at the beginning. Next, Goddess Lakshmi is worshipped in her 3 forms-Mahalakshmi, the goddess of wealth and money; Mahasaraswati, the goddess of books and learning and Mahakali. Lord Kubera, who is known as the treasurer of the gods is also worshipped.
- To avoid accidents with fire or any sparks, make sure that you wear cotton clothes and stay away from all kinds of synthetic material.
- Wear earplugs while going out to avoid any damage to your hearing, especially if you have sensitive ears.
- Always keep a first aid kit handy.
- Always keep some water and sand in store, near where you're lighting fireworks.
- Burst crackers in open spaces like playgrounds and fields.
- Make sure you purchase good quality firecrackers from licensed sellers. With quality fireworks, there is a reduced chance of any kind of mishaps taking place.
When it comes to Diwali, there are a lot of aspects to it that we don't talk about! This Diwali, enrich your knowledge with the following cool facts about this widely celebrated festival.
- Diwali is a national holiday in India, Trinidad & Tobago, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Mauritius, Guyana, Surinam, Singapore, Malaysia and Fiji.
- Diwali is the beginning of the financial year for Indian businesses
- Diwali marks the end of the harvest season in the country.
- The name 'deepavali' is a Sanskrit word and means 'row of lights'.
- People worship a number of gods and goddesses during this time. They worship the goddess Lakshmi for wealth and prosperity, Lord Vishnu for satisfaction and happiness, LordKubera for wealth, Lord Indra for opulence and Goddess Saraswati for knowledge.
- People of all religions celebrate this day with much pomp and joy.
- On the day of Diwali, the whole country is lit up extravagantly with lights and filled with the buzzing sounds of the firecrackers. According to some, it is the way to go about to show the heavenly bodies that we are in joy and prosperity. Another more scientific reason is that the fumes of crackers kill the harmful insects of the rainy season.
- We all know that people gamble around Diwali time. There is a legend behind why people gamble on Diwali. It is said that on this day, the goddess Parvati had played dice with her husband, Shiva. She then declared that whoever would gamble on the night of Diwali would be ensured good fortune and prosperity all throughout the year.
- The Pandavas returned from their 12-year exile to Hastinapura on Kartik Amavasya and celebrated their return by lighting earthen lamps, or diyas.
- The sixth Guru of the Sikhs, GuruHargobind freed himself as well as other Hindu rulers from the hands of Mughal Emperor, Jahangir, in 1619. In fact, it is interesting to note that the foundation stone of the holiest Sikh place in the world- the Golden Temple- was laid on Diwali in the year of 1577!
- It is said that Goddess Lakshmi was churned out of the sea on Diwali and visits homes every year, with the cleanest ones first. This is also why people ensure that their homes are spotlessly clean every Diwali!
- Diwali is incomplete without the beauty offered by Rangoli! It is a timeless tradition follower all over the nation. It is also known by other names such as 'kolam', 'aripoma','alpana'. For many families, it is a way of spending quality time and is also a festivity parents and children bond over. It is a decoration to welcome the deity Lakshmi and, of course, numerous guests, friends and family!
- Different states have different types of rangolis indigenous to them. For instance, in Bihar, there is a certain type of Rangoli where the footsteps of the Goddess Lakshmi are drawn on the doorstep. The toes point towards the door, signifying her entry into the house.
- According to Jain history, the founder, or the last Jain Tirthankar of Jainism attained 'Moksha' or salvation on the day of Diwali. Hence, the festival is devoted to his achievement of nirvana!
- Most people do now know that it was the day of Diwali when the foundation stone of the Golden Temple was laid and the festival is celebrated by the Sikhs at the Golden Temple since 1577.
- The biggest Diwali celebration outside of India is hosted by the English city of Leicester.
- More than 800 million people celebrate this festival in various ways.
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Now, go out there and celebrate this happy festival with your near and dear ones! Revel in the festivities, wear new clothes, exchange sweets and most importantly...stay safe! If you'd like to make their day even better, get them unique Diwali Gifts. A unique, thoughtful gift can go a long way in brightening up someone's day and leaving them overjoyed!