FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS - DIWALI
Diwali & New Years !!!!
May Diwali Bring
Lights to Your Spirits,
Wealth to Your Home
& Joy to Your Hearts!
Diwali, the festival of lights is celebrated in every nook
and corner of India with enthusiasm. This Diwali which leads us into Truth and Light is
celebrated on Amavasya - the 15th day of the dark fortnight of the Hindu month of Kartik
(October / November) every year. It symbolises that age-old culture of our country which
teaches us to vanquish ignorance that subdues humanity and to drive away darkness that
engulfs the light of knowledge. Diwali, the festival of lights even to-day in this modern
world projects the rich and glorious past of our country and teaches us to uphold the true
values of life.
"Deepavali" is a sanskrit word -- Deepa meaning light and Avali, meaning a row.
It means a row of lights and indeed illumination forms its main attraction. Every home -
lowly or mightly - the hut of the poor or the mansion of the rich - is a lit with the
orange glow of twinkling diyas-small earthen lamps - to welcome Lakshmi, Goddess of wealth
and prosperity. Floral decorations, fireworks and rangoli lend picturesness and grandeur
to this festival which heralds joy, mirth and happiness in the ensuring year.
There are many versions about the origin of Diwali. According to some, it was on this day
that goddess Laxmi was married to god Vishnu. According to popular legend, Lord Rama had
returned to Ayodhya on this day after completing fourteen years of exile and after killing
Ravana, releasing Sita from his grip. Another legend says on this day, Lord Krishna is
said to have killed the great demon Narakasur and liberated humanity from the cruel
The first day is Dhanterash falls on the thirteenth day of
the month of Kartik. The word "Dhan" means wealth. As such this day of the
five-day Diwali festival has a great importance for the rich mercantile community of
Western India. Houses and Business premises are renovated and decorated. Entrances are
made colourful with lovely traditional motifs of Rangoli designs to welcome the Goddess of
wealth and prosperity. To indicate her long-awaited arrival, small footprints are drawn
with rice flour and vermilion powder all over the houses. Lamps are kept burning all
through the nights. Believing this day to be auspicious women purchase some gold or silver
or at least one or two new utensils. "Lakshmi-Puja" is performed in the evenings
when tiny diyas of clay are lighted to drive away the shadows of evil spirits.
"Bhajans"-devotional songs- in praise of Goddess Laxmi are sung and
"Naivedya" of traditional sweets is offered to the Goddess. There is a peculiar
custom in Maharashtra to lightly pound dry coriander seeds with jaggery and offer as
In villages cattles are adorned and worshipped by farmers as they form the main source of
their income. In south cows are offered special veneration as they are supposed to be the
incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi and therefore they are adorned and worshipped on this day.
A very interesting story about this day is of the sixteen year old son of King Hima. As
per his horoscope he was doomed to die by a snake-bite on the fourth day of his marriage.
On that particular fourth day of his marriage his young wife did not allow him to sleep.
She laid all the ornaments and lots of gold and silver coins in a big heap at the entrance
of her husband's boudoir and lighted innumerable lamps all over the place. And she went on
telling stories and singing songs. When Yam, the god of Death arrived there in the guise
of a Serpent his eyes got blinded by that dazzle of those brilliant lights and he could
not enter the Prince's chamber. So he climbed on top of the heap of the ornaments and
coins and sat there whole night listening to the melodious songs. In the morning he
quietly went away.
Thus the young wife saved her husband from the clutches of death. Since then this day of
Dhanteras came to be known as the day of "Yamadeepdan" and lamps are kept
burning throughout the night in reverential adoration to Yam, the god of Death.
The Second day is Narka Chaturdashi or Kali Chaudasa.
The story goes that the demon king Narakasur ruler of Pragjyotishpur ( a province to the
South of Nepal) after defeating Lord Indra had snatched away the magnificent earrings of
Aditi, the Mother Goddess and imprisoned sixteen thousand daughters of the gods and saints
in his harem. On the day previous to Narakachaturdashi, Lord Krishna killed the demon and
liberated the imprisoned damsels and also recovered those precious earrings of Aditi. As a
symbol of that victory Lord Krishna smeared his forehead with the demon king's blood.
Krishna returned home in the very early morning of the Narakachaturdashi day. The
womenfolk massaged scented oil to his body and gave him a good bath to wash away the filth
from his body. Since then the custom of taking bath before sunrise on this day has become
a traditional practice specially in Maharashtra.
In South India that victory of the divine over the mundane is celebrated in a very
peculiar way. People wake up before sunrise prepare blood by mixing Kumkum in oil and
after breaking a bitter fruit that represents the head of the demon King that was smashed
by Krishna, apply that mixture on their foreheads. Then they have an oil bath using
In Maharashtra also, traditional early baths with oil and "Uptan" (paste) of
gram flour and fragrant powders are a `must'. All through the ritual of baths, deafening
sounds of crackers and fireworks are there in order that the children enjoy bathing.
Afterwards steamed vermiceli with milk and sugar or puffed rice with curd is served.
Another legend is about King Bali of the nether world mighty power had become a threat to
the gods. In order to curb his powers Lord Vishnu in the guise of a Batuk Vaman- a small
boy- visited him and begged him to give him only that much land which he could cover with
his three steps. Known for his philanthropy King Bali proudly granted him his wish. That
very moment that small boy transformed himself into the all-powerful Lord Vishnu. With his
first step Lord Vishnu covered the entire heaven and with the second step the earth and
asked Bali where to keep his third step. Bali offered his head. Putting his foot on his
head Vishnu pushed him down to the underworld. At the same time for his generosity Lord
Vishnu gave him the lamp of knowledge and allowed him to return to earth once a year to
light millions of lamps to dispel the darkness and ignorance and spread the radiance of
love and wisdom.
This Narakachaturdashi day therefore is dedicated to lights and prayers heralding a future
full of joy and laughter.
The THIRD day of the festival of Diwali is the most important
day of LAKSHMI-PUJA which is entirely devoted to puja of Goddess Lakshmi. This day is also
known by the name of "CHOPADA-PUJA". On this very day sun enters his second
course and passes Libra which is represented by the balance or scale. Hence, this design
of Libra is believed to have suggested the balancing of account books and their closing.
Despite the fact that this day falls on an amavasya day it is regarded as the most
The day of Lakshmi-Puja falls on the dark night of Amavasya. The strains of joyous sounds
of bells and drums float from the temples as man is invoking Goddess Lakshmi in a wondrous
holy "pouring-in" of his heart. All of a sudden that impenetrable darkness is
pierced by innumerable rays of light for just a moment and the next moment a blaze of
light descends down to earth from heaven as golden-footed Deep-Lakshmi alights on earth in
all her celestial glory amidst chantings of Vedic hymns. A living luminance of Universal
Motherhood envelopes the entire world in that blessed moment of fulfillment of a
long-awaited dream of the mortal. A sublime light of knowledge dawns upon humanity and
devotion of man finally conquers ignorance. This self enlightenment is expressed through
the twinkling lamps that illuminate the palaces of the wealthy as well as the lowly abodes
of the poor. It is believed that on this day Lakshmi walks through the green fields and
loiters through the bye-lanes and showers her blessings on man for plenty and prosperity.
When the sun sets in the evening and ceremonial worship is finished all the home-made
sweets are offered to the goddess as "NAIVEDYA" and distributed as
"PRASAD". Feasts are arranged and gifts are exchanged on this day gaily dressed
men, women and children go to temples and fairs, visit friends and relatives. Everything
is gay, gold and glitter!
One of the most curious customs which characterises this festival of Diwali is the
indulgence of gambling, specially on a large scale in North India. It is believed that
goddess Parvati played dice with her husband, Lord Shiv on this day and she decreed that
whosoever gambled on Diwali night would prosper throughout the ensuring year. This
tradition of playing cards- flush and rummy with stakes on this particular day continues
On this auspicious day Lord Shri Krishna around whom revolved
the entire story of our great epic Mahabharat and the philosopher, who preached Karmayog
through his Geeta to Arjun on the battlefield of Kurukshetra, discarded his body.
Swami Dayanand Saraswati, founder of Brahma-Samaj with his
superb yogic powers greed his soul from his body and mingled with divinity on this
auspicious day of Diwali. Bhagwan, Mahavir, the Jain prophet also attained
"Nirvan" on this day. Swami Ramtirth, the beloved "Ram Badshah" of
millions of Indians was not only born on this day and took "Sanyas" but also
took "Samadhi" on this day.
We kindle innumerable lights on this day to immortalise the sacred memories of those great
men who lived to brighten the lives of millions of their fellow beings.
One very interesting story about this Diwali day is from Kathopanishad of a small boy
called Nichiketa who believed that Yam, the god of Death was as black as the dark night of
amavasya. But when he met Yam in person he was puzzled seeing Yam's calm countenance and
dignified stature. Yam explained to Nichiketa on this Diwali day of amavasya that by only
passing through the darkness of death, man sees the light of highest wisdom and then only
his soul can escape from the bondage of his mortal frame to mingle with the Supreme Power
without whose will not an at ton moves in the world. And then Nichiketa realised the
importance of worldly life and significance of death. Nichiketa's all doubts were set at
rest and he whole-heartedly participated in Diwali celebrations.
The FOURTH day is PADWA or VARSHAPRATIPADA which marks the
coronation of King Vikramaditya and Vikaram-Samvat was started from this Padwa day.
Govardhan-Puja is also performed in the North on this day. As per Vishnu-Puran the people
of Gokul used to celebrate a festival in honour of Lord Indira and worshipped him after
the end of every monsoon season but one particular year the young Krishna stopped them
from offering prayers to Lord Indra who in terrific anger sent a deluge to submerge Gokul.
But Krishna saved his Gokul by lifting up the Govardhan mountain, a small hill in Braj,
Mathura and holding it over the people as an umbrella.
The Fifth Day is Bhai Bij. As the legend goes Yamraj, the God of Death visited his sister
Yami on this particular day. She put the auspicious tilak on his forehead, garlanded him
and led him with special dishes and both of them together ate the sweets, talked and
enjoyed themselves to their heart's content, while parting Yamraj gave her a special gift
as a token of his love and in return Yami also gave him a lovely gift which she had made
with her own hands. That day Yamraj announced that anyone who receives tilak from his
sister will never be thrown. That is why this day of Bhayyaduj is also known by the name
of "YAMA-DWITIYA" Since then this day is being observed as a symbol of love
between sisters and brothers. It became also imperative for the brother to go to his
sister's house to celebrate Bhayyaduj.
Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore has
truly said: The night is black Kindle the lamp of LOVE With thy life and devotion. Thus
Diwali is a festival of lights with various cultures and customs that mingle together to
make it a happy occasion and spread joys.
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