Diwali, the festival of lights, is perhaps one of the more celebrated festivals in India. Also known as Deepavali, it is celebrated for five days with a different puja each day. The first day is set aside to worship Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth. Houses are thoroughly cleaned and windows are kept open to welcome Lakshmi.
On the second day, Kali, the Goddess of strength, is worshipped in hopes of eradicating laziness and evil.
The third day would be the last day in the lunar calendar. On this day, houses are decorated with rows of lamps or diyas. The lamps symbolise knowledge to use each day purposefully.
The fourth day would be the first day of the lunar year. All old business accounts are settled on this day. New books are opened and worshipped in a special ceremony and a puja for the removal of anger, hatred and jealousy is also performed.
The final day is to celebrated in remembrance of an ancient king, Balipratipada, who was known to be very generous. Thus, the focus of this day is to see good in others, including enemies. On the whole, it symbolises the victory of rightousness over spiritual darkness. This festival also commemorates Lord Rama’s return to his kingdom Ayodhya after completing his 14-year exile.
Diwali is a time for family get togethers, decorating homes, distributing sweets and bursting fire crackers. Legends of Diwali: There are several popular and interesting legends related to the joyous festival of Diwali. One may notice that the legends of Diwali differ in different parts of the country and so does the reasons for Diwali celebration. But everywhere Diwali symbolizes the victory of good over evil. Legend of Lord Ram According to a popular legend in North India, Diwali marks the day when Lord Ram – the revered Hindu God, was crowned as the King of Ayodhya. Ram returned to Ayodhya after 14 years of exile with wife Sita, brother Laxman and devotee Hanuman. The exile was pronounced on Ram by father Dashrath on the persistence of queen Kaikayi. During the period of exile Ram performed many good deeds for the benefit of mankind and also slayed the demon Kind Ravana who abducted Sita. When Lord Ram returned to Ayodhya everybody in the Kingdom was happy. To express their joy and jubilation people decorated their houses with flowers and garlands. They also lighted diyas and burnt crackers to mark the victory of good over evil. This tradition of lighting diyas and bursting crackers is being carried out since then on the occasion of Diwali. History and folklore of Halloween: Diwali (also called Deepavali) is a major Hindu festival. Known as the “Festival of Lights,” it symbolises the victory of good over evil, and lamps are lit as a sign of celebration and hope for mankind. Celebrations focus on lights and lamps, particularly traditional diyas (as illustrated). Fireworks are associated with the festival in some regions of the country.
Deepavali is celebrated for five consecutive days in the Hindu month of Ashwayuja. It usually occurs in October/November, and is one of the most popular and eagerly awaited festivals of India. Hindus, Jains and Sikhs alike regard it as a celebration of life and use the occasion to strengthen family and social relationships. For Jains it is one of the most important festivals, and beginning of the Jain year. It is also a significant festival for the Sikh faith. Dates in various calendars: The date of Diwali is based on the Hindu calendar, which has solar sidereal years and lunar months. Although the festival is worshipped on exactly the same set of days across India, it falls in different months depending on the version of the Hindu calendar being used in the given region. The Amanta (“ending on the no-moon”) version of the Hindu Calendar has been adopted as the Indian national calendar.
According to this calendar, which is prevalent in southern India and Maharashtra, deepavali falls in the middle of the month of Ashwayuja. According to the Purnimanta (“ending on the full-moon”) version prevalent in northern India, the 5-day celebration is spread over the last three days of the month of Ashwayuja and the first two days of the new month of Kartika. According to this calendar, the festival of Deepavali marks the new year’s day of this calendar and is therefore an especially significant festival. In the Gregorian calendar, it falls generally in the months of October or November.
In 2005, the new moon day which is the third and most important day of the festival fell on November 1. In 2006, it will be celebrated on October 21 (Saturday). Significance in Hinduism: The festival marks the victory of good over evil. The Sanskrit word Deepavali means array of lights that stands for victory of brightness over darkness. As the knowledge of Sanskrit diminished, the name was popularly modified to Diwali, especially in northern India. On the day of Diwali, many wear new clothes, share sweets and light firecrackers. The North Indian business community usually starts their financial new year on Diwali and new account books are opened on this day.
Hindus find cause to celebrate this festival for different reasons: * As per sacred texts, according to Skandha Purana, the goddess Shakti observed 21 days of austerity starting from ashtami of shukla paksha (waxing period of moon) to get half part of the body of Lord Shiva. This vrata is known as kedhara vrata. Deepavali is the completion day of this austerity. This is the day Lord Shiva accepted Shakti into the left half of the form and appeared as Ardhanarishvara. The ardent devotees observe this 21 days vrata by making a kalasha with 21 threads on it and 21 types of offerings for 35 days. The final day is celebrated as kedhara gauri vrata. Children lighting lamps in the form of swastika on eve of diwali Enlarge Children lighting lamps in the form of swastika on eve of diwali * Diwali also celebrates the return of the Lord Rama, King of Ayodhya, his wife Sita and brother Lakshmana to Ayodhya from a war in which he killed the demon king Ravana. It is believed that the people lit oil lamps along the way to light their path in the darkness. In North India, the festival is held on the final day of the Vikram calendar. The following day marks the beginning of the North Indian new year, and is called Annakut. * It commemorates the killing of Narakasura, an evil demon who created havoc, by Lord Krishna’s wife Sathyabhama. This happened in the Dwapara Yuga during this time of Lord Krishna’s avatar. In another version, the demon was killed by Lord Krishna himself.
In South India, Diwali does not coincide with the beginning of a new year as South Indians follow a different calendar, the Shalivahana calendar. * In Bhavishyottara and Bramhavaivarta Purana, Diwali is associated with the Daitya king Bali, who is allowed to return to earth once a year. Diwali in other parts of the world: Diwali is celebrated in various parts of the world, in countries such as Britain, The Netherlands, Suriname, Canada, Guyana, Mauritius, Fiji, Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Singapore, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Trinidad and Tobago, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, Australia, much of Africa, and the United States. With more and more Indians now migrating to various parts of the world, the number of countries where Diwali is celebrated has been gradually increasing. While in some countries it is celebrated mainly by Indian expatriates, in others it has become part of the general local culture. In most of these countries Diwali is celebrated on the same lines as described in this article with some minor variations. Some important variations are worth mentioning.
In Malaysia, Diwali is known as “Hari Deepavali,” and is celebrated during the seventh month of the Hindu solar calendar. It is a federal public holiday. In many respects it resembles the traditions followed in the Indian subcontinent. In Nepal, Diwali is known as Tihar and celebrated during the October/November period. Here, though the festival is celebrated for five days, the traditions vary from those followed in India. On the first day, cows are given offerings, in appreciation of the food they have given and agricultural work they have performed.. On the second day, dogs and all living animals are revered and offered special food. On the third day, celebrations follow the same pattern as in India, with lights and lamps and much social activity. On the fourth day Yama, the Lord of Death, is worshipped and appeased. On the fifth and final day, brothers and sisters meet and exchange pleasantries. Diwali is celebrated in the Caribbean Islands as well. Especially in Trinidad and Tobago, Diwali is marked as a special occasion and celebrated with much fanfare. It is observed as a national holiday in this part of the world and some Ministers of the Government also take part in the celebrations publicly. —
” ॐ असतो मा सद् गमय तमसो मा ज्योतिर्गमय मृत्योर्मामृतं गमय । ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः ॥ ”