It is the time of the year again when our entire nation is immersed in happiness, love, gratitude, and fun. The time when there is a sparkle in everyone’s eyes and our neighbourhood buzzes with excitement. The warmth in the air only adds up to the festive spirit.
Diwali in India or, as it is known by its other name, Deepawali is one of, if not the most popular Hindu festival celebrated by not just Hindus but people from different religions all over India as well as the world. Perhaps because of the pomp and show that is involved with Diwali, the festival is also known as the "Festival of Lights".
Deepawali, Deepavali, or Diwali is the biggest and the brightest of all Hindu festivals. It is the festival of lights: deep means "light" and avali "a row" to become "a row of lights." The Diwali festival occurs in late October or early November. It falls on the 15th day of the Hindu month of Kartik, so it varies every year.
Like every other festival in India, Diwali has a rich history.
The festival of lights is spread across five-days and each day has its own significance and traditional rituals that are followed. The five-day festival begins from Dhanteras and ends on Bhai Dooj. The festival is associated with wealth and happiness and has different significance on each day. What remains constant is the celebration of life, its enjoyment, and a sense of goodness.
Day One: Asweyuja Bahula Thrayodasi (Dhanteras)
Also known as Dhanatrayodashi or Dhanvantari Trayodashi, is the first day of Diwali. People of South pray Lord Kubera. The word ‘dhan’ means wealth and Hindus consider it auspicious to buy gold or silver or at least new utensils. This day marks the beginning of Diwali celebrations. It falls two days before Diwali i.e. on the thirteenth day of the dark fortnight in the month of Kartik. Kubera, the god of wealth, is worshipped on the day. It is believed that it is on Dhanteras when Goddess Lakshmi came out of the ocean of milk during the churning of the sea. Hence, in the evening, Lakshmi Puja is performed by lighting tiny diyas to drive away evil spirits. There is also another ritual followed on this day which is Yama Daana, i.e.; southern direction. This is done to propitiate Lord Yama, the god of Death, and by his grace avoid untimely deaths.
Second Day: Naraka Chaturdashi
Naraka Chaturdashi falls on the second day of Diwali and is celebrated to mark the victory of Lord Krishna against Narkasur. The day is also known as Choti Diwali, Kali Chaudas or Roop Chaudas. According to Hindu mythology, Narkasur, son of earth, who rules several kingdoms, becomes an evilasur. He later tries to rule heaven and earth. Later, Krishna attacks Narkasur and beheads him with his Sudarshan Chakra. Hence, there is a ritual to break karit (a bitter fruit) on the day, symbolising the victory of good over the evil. On this day people perform the Abhyang Snan (ritual bath with oil) before sunrise. People decorate their homes with clay lamps and create design patterns called rangoli on the floor using colored powders or sand. On this day people make effigies of Narakasura and carry out processions which end up in burning of the effigies on the outskirts of the cities in the evening. Narak Chaturdashi is also known as Divvela Pandaga or Divili Pandaga and the day is very important for Telugu people.
Third Day: Lakshmi Puja (Deepavali Amavasya Day)
The third day of Diwali is dedicated to Goddess Lakshmi and is known as Lakshmi Puja. The puja is a combination of five deities - Mahalakshmi, Lord Ganesha, Mahakali, Mahasaraswati and Lord Kuber. On this day people pray for wealth, prosperity and happiness of their dear ones. Though the day falls on Amavasya, which is usually considered the inauspicious day, on Lakshmi Puja, it is regarded as the auspicious day. It is believed that on Lakshmi Puja, Goddess Lakshmi visits her devotes and bless the family with health, wealth and happiness. It is the most important day of the festival. On this day people wake up early and visit temples and offer prayers to deities. On this day people draw grand big Rangoli’s (Kolam’s) outside their homes. In the evening people perform the Lakshmi Ganesh Puja as it is performed in other parts of the country. In Hyderabad, there is a unique tradition of bathing a buffalo on Diwali Day. In some parts of Andhra Pradesh, the festival of Diwali is known as Kaumudi Mahotsavam.
Fourth Day: Bali Padyami (Padwa, Balipratipada)
On this day people decorate their home to welcome demon king Bali to their homes. On this day people perform auspicious acts on this day like having oil baths, wearing new clothes, buying new clothes, buying new things, having a feast and greeting friends and family.
This day of Diwali is also known as Padwa which celebrates the bond between the wife and husband. On Padwa, wife prays for the long life, wealth and prosperity of husband and husband showers wife with gifts.
The day is also celebrated as Bali Pratipada, the day when Lord Vishnu’s avatar Vamana took over all the three worlds from demon King Bali. The king was later sent to the underworld. As the king had a great affection for his people, he gains the permission to visit the kingdom once a year. And since then people celebrate the day as the homecoming of Bali as Balipratipada.
Fifth Day: Bhratri Dwitiya (Bhai Dooj)
The five-days of Diwali conclude with Bhratri Dwitiya (Bhai Dooj), a day dedicated to the bond of brothers and sisters. Bhai Dooj is also called as Bhaubeej, Bhai Tika and Bhai Phonta. According to mythology, Yam, the death of god, visits his sister Yamuna on this day and puts tilak on his forehead. Later, Yam announces that on this day any brother who has red tilak applied by his sister experiences good health and fortune. Hence the day is called ‘Bhai Dooj’. Since then, on this day brothers visit sisters and a tilak ceremony followed by an exchange of gifts is performed.
The reasons to celebrate the festivals of light can be traced back to ancient India. As several religions developed, more and more explanations and stories got attributed to this day.
Historically, Diwali can be traced back to ancient India. It most likely began as an important harvest festival. However, there are various legends pointing to the origin of Diwali. There are different legends associated with Diwali, which vary from region to region in India.
Return of Ram to Ayodhya
The most popular legend associated with Diwali is the legend of King Ram. Diwali is the day when Ram returned to Ayodhya following 14 years of exile after defeating the demon king Ravana who abducted Sita, wife of Ram. People of Ayodhya were absolutely ecstatic at the homecoming of Ram and rejoiced by lighting up their houses and distributing sweets to each other, a tradition still followed by all those who celebrate the festival.
Legend of Narakasura
According to this legend, Diwali is the day when Narakasura was killed by Krishna. It is believed that Narakasura had availed a boon of long life from Vishnu. He created havoc in all the three words and started assaulting women. It is said that Narakasura requested Krishna that his death should be remembered by all, and this is the reason why the day is celebrated as Narakchaturdashi.
Incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi
Goddess Lakshmi was born when Devtas and Asuras were fighting over nectar while churning the ocean. Goddess Lakshmi decided to give nectar to the Devtas.<p/>
Return of Pandavas
It is believed that Pandavas returned to their capital Hastinapur on this day after twelve long years of exile. And the occasion was marked by people by lighting earthen lamps (diyas).<p/>
Legend of King Bali
Diwali is also believed to be the day when King Bali was sent to Patala by Lord Vishnu in his Vamana avatar. Fearing the rising influence of King Bali, Vishnu asked for as much land as he can measure with three of his steps. He measured the entire earth and heaven with two steps and by placing third at the head of Bali (at his request), sent him to Patala
Coronation of King Vikramaditya
It is believed that legendary king Vikramaditya was coronated on the day of Diwali, giving another reason to people to celebrate the festival.
Diwali as a Harvest Festival
Diwali was initially celebrated as the festival of harvest. It is the time when farmers in India reap their harvest and worship the goddess Lakshmi (goddess of prosperity & wealth) by offering her portions from fresh harvest.
All of the simple rituals of Diwali have a significance and a story behind them. Homes are illuminated with lights, and firecrackers fill the skies as an expression of respect to the heavens for the attainment of health, wealth, knowledge, peace, and prosperity.
According to one belief, the sound of firecrackers indicates the joy of the people living on earth, making the gods aware of their plentiful state. Still another possible reason has a more scientific basis: the fumes produced by the firecrackers kill or repel many insects, including mosquitoes, which are plentiful after the rains.
Beyond the lights, gambling, and fun, Diwali is also a time to reflect on life and make changes for the upcoming year. With that, there are a number of customs that revellers hold dear each year.
Give and forgive
It is common practice that people forget and forgive the wrongs done by others during Diwali. There is an air of freedom, festivity, and friendliness everywhere.
Rise and shine
Waking up during the Brahmamuhurta (at 4 a.m., or 1 1/2 hours before sunrise) is a great blessing from the standpoint of health, ethical discipline, efficiency in work, and spiritual advancement. The sages who instituted this Deepawali custom may have hoped that their descendants would realize its benefits and make it a regular habit in their lives.
Unite and unify
Diwali is a unifying event, and it can soften even the hardest of hearts. It is a time when people mingle about in joy and embrace one another.
Those with keen inner spiritual ears will clearly hear the voice of the sages, "O children of God unite, and love all." The vibrations produced by the greetings of love, which fill the atmosphere, are powerful. When the heart has considerably hardened, only a continuous celebration of Deepavali can rekindle the urgent need of turning away from the ruinous path of hatred.
Prosper and progress
On this day, Hindu merchants in North India open their new account books and pray for success and prosperity during the coming year. People buy new clothes for the family. Employers, too, purchase new clothes for their employees.
Homes are cleaned and decorated by day and illuminated by night with earthen oil lamps. The best and finest illuminations can be seen in Bombay and Amritsar. The famous Golden Temple at Amritsar is lit in the evening with thousands of lamps.
This festival instils charity in the hearts of people, who perform good deeds. This includes Govardhan Puja, a celebration by Vaishnavites on the fourth day of Diwali. On this day, they feed the poor on an incredible scale.
Illuminate your inner self
The lights of Diwali also signify a time of inner illumination. Hindus believe that the light of lights is the one that steadily shines in the chamber of the heart. Sitting quietly and fixing the mind on this supreme light illuminates the soul. It is an opportunity to cultivate and enjoy eternal bliss.
From Darkness Unto Light
over evil. It is with each Deepawali and the lights that illuminate our homes and hearts that this simple truth finds new reason and hope.
From darkness unto light - the light empowers us to commit ourselves to good deeds and brings us closer to divinity. During Diwali, lights illuminate every corner of India, and the scent of incense sticks hangs in the air, mingled with the sounds of firecrackers, joy, togetherness, and hope.
Diwali is celebrated around the globe. Outside of India, it is more than a Hindu festival; it's a celebration of South-Asian identities. If you are away from the sights and sounds of Diwali, light a diya, sit quietly, shut your eyes, withdraw the senses, concentrate on this supreme light, and illuminate the soul.
Lighting Good Qualities
Every lamp that we light is symbolic of a good quality. There are good qualities in every human being. Some have forbearance, some have love, strength, generosity; others have the ability to unite people. When all these qualities are lit, awakened, that is Diwali. Don’t be satisfied with lighting one lamp; light a thousand! If you have the value of service in you, don’t be satisfied only with that. Light the lamp of wisdom in yourself and acquire knowledge. Awaken all the facets of your being.
Another profound symbolism of Diwali is in lighting firecrackers. In life, you often become like a firecracker, waiting to explode with your pent-up emotions, frustration and anger. When you keep suppressing your emotions, cravings and aversions are bound to reach a point where they explode. Bursting crackers is a psychological exercise from ancient times to release bottled-up emotions. When you see an explosion outside, you feel similar sensations within as well. Along with the explosion, there is a lot of light as well. When you let go of these suppressed emotions, the light of knowledge dawns.
Being in the Present
Diwali means to be in the present - dropping the regrets of the past, the worries of the future, and living in the moment. The sweets and exchange of gifts symbolize forgetting the bickering and negativities of the past, and renewal of friendship for the times to come. A true celebration means dissolving all differences. Happiness and wisdom have to spread in society, and that can happen when all come together and celebrate. Even if one member of the family is shrouded in darkness, you cannot be happy. You need to kindle wisdom in every member of your family. Extend it to every member of society, every person on the planet.
Spirit of Service
Any celebration is incomplete without the spirit of service. Whatever we have received from the Divine we should share it with others, for it is in giving that we receive. That is true celebration.
Diwali is a time when you throw light on the wisdom you have gained and welcome a new beginning. When true wisdom dawns, it gives rise to celebration. Celebration is the nature of the spirit and every excuse to celebrate is good. For the one who is not in knowledge, Diwali comes only once a year, but for the wise, Diwali is every moment and every day.
For the one who is not in knowledge, Diwali comes only once a year, but for the wise, Diwali is every moment and every day. This Diwali, celebrate with knowledge and take a sankalpa (vow) to serve humanity. Light the lamp of love in your heart; the lamp of abundance in your home; the lamp of compassion to serve others; the lamp of Knowledge to dispel the darkness of ignorance and the lamp of gratitude for the abundance that the Divine has bestowed on us.
Diwali - the Festival of light is incomplete without Lakshmi Puja. Chant the given lakshmi puja mantra and make your puja more fruitful.
Lakshmi Beej Mantra:
ॐ ह्रीं श्रीं लक्ष्मीभयो नमः।।
Om Hreem Shreem Lakshmibhayo Namah ||
ॐ श्रीं ह्रीं श्रीं कमले कमलालये प्रसीद प्रसीद
ॐ श्रीं ह्रीं श्रीं कमले कमलालये प्रसीद प्रसीद
ॐ श्रीं ह्रीं श्रीं महालक्ष्मयै नम:।।
Om Shreem Hreem Shreem Kamale Kamalalaye Praseed Praseed
Om Shreem Hreem Shreem Mahalakshmaye Namah ||
Lakshmi Gayatri Mantra:
ॐ श्री महालक्ष्म्यै च विद्महे विष्णु पत्न्यै च
धीमहि तन्नो लक्ष्मी प्रचोदयात् ॐ ।।
Om Shree Mahalakshmyai Cha Vidmahe Vishnu Patnyai Cha
Dheemahi Tanno Lakshmi Prachodayat Om ||