Diwali or Deepavali is the biggest and the most beautiful festivals celebrated amongst the Hindus. It can also be said that it is the most important festival celebrated by the Hindus.
The festival is of five days and the third day is the main or the biggest festival, which is Diwali. Diwali or Deepavali, as the name suggests is the festival of lights, as Deep means lamps. The festival signifies a victory of the goodness over evil and light over darkness.
On the auspicious day millions of lamps illuminate the whole country and bring aspirations and hope for a better tomorrow. Diwali falls on the Amavasya of the month of Karthik as per traditional Hindu calendar.
According to the traditional calendar, Diwali is celebrated on the darkest night in the waning phase of the moon in the month of October November.
Historical mention of Diwali
The mention of Diwali as a harvesting festival can be found in Sanskrit scriptures such as Skanda Purana, Padma Purana etc. the Skanda Purana explicitly mentions the lamps as representative of the sun. The legend of Nachiketa and Yama too happened in the Amavasya of the Karthika month and is mentioned in the Katha Upanishad, which was composed in 1st millennium BC.
Deepavali as Deepapratipadutsavais mentioned in the 7th century Sanskrit play by King Harshavardhana, called nagananda. There it is mentioned as a festival of lamps, where husband and wives celebrated together and were given gifts. In the 9th century Kavyamimamsa, Rajasekhara mentions Diwali as dipamalika. In this literary piece of work, Rajasekhara mentions of houses being cleaned and whitewashed and then oil lamps being lit at homes, markets and at streets. Al Birauni, the Persian traveler in his 11 th century memoirs too spoke about the traditional Hindu celebration of Diwali or Deepavali on the new moon night of Kartick.
Religious significance of Diwali
It is believed that Lord Rama along with his wife Sita and brother Lakshmana returned to Ayodhya on the auspicious day of Diwali after their 14 years of exile and the villagers lit numerous lamps in honor of them.
Diwali also signifies and celebrates the return of the Pandavas after their 12 years of Agyatavas.
Diwali is essentially associated with Goddess Lakshmi. It is believed that she arose from the churning of the sea, or Samudramanthan and Goddess Lakshmi chose Lord Vishnu as her husband and they were married on this propitious day of Diwali.
There is a certain belief that on this day, one of the Mahavidya, Kali was born to drive away the darkness and defeat evil. Thus in many parts of India, especially in West Bengal on Deepavali, Goddess kali are worshipped.
Lord Ganesha, the remover of all obstacles, Goddess Saraswati, The Goddess of Learning and Kubera, the treasurer of the divine wealth are also worshipped on this day.
There is also a belief that on this day Lord Vishnu arrived at Vaikunthadhham, that is, back to their abode. This is thus an auspicious and happy situation which makes Goddess Lakshmi happy and thus worshipping her on this day is sure to get her blessings.
In certain areas, where the numbers of Krishna devotees are higher, such as in the Braj region, the day is marked as when Mount Govardhana was moved by Lord Krishna.
The Jains also celebrate this auspicious day as the festival of Light, as on this day Mahavira had attained his moksha.
Buddhists on this day commemorate emperor Ashoka’s conversion to Buddhism.
Rituals of Diwali
Diwali is a five day festival with the main day celebrated on the Amavasya of the month of Kartick. The festival is associated with lamps, rangoli, fire crackers etc. it is a festival where gifts and messages are exchanged and the entire family comes together to celebrate this .
Day 1 – Dhanteras – this is the day which kick starts the five day long festival. On this day houses and business premises are cleaned and decorated. Beautiful and colorful Rangoli decorations are prepared and beautified. Lights and lamps are all fitted and lit. This day marks the appearance day of the Goddess of wealth and prosperity and thus she is worshipped on this day. It is also a day of major purchases, as it is believed that buying gold and silver or utensils on this day proves to be beneficial for the family and husband
Day 2 – Naraka Chaturdasi – This day is also known as Chhoti Diwali. It is believed that on this day Narakasura was killed by Lord Krishna, Satyabhama and Kali. There are special cleansing and bathing rituals being followed in certain parts of the country.
Day 3- Lakshmi Puja – This is the main day of the 5 day long festival. People wear new clothes on this day, and diyas are all lit, the house beautified. Some people set the diyas or lamps afloat on rivers also. People visit relatives, family and friends on this day. After the worshipping of Goddess Lakshmi along with Ganesha is over, people go out to celebrate and enjoy a celebration of fireworks and wish everyone Happy Diwali. They light crackers and various other types of fireworks.
Day 4 – Padwa, Balipratipada – This is a special day for all married couples, as they exchange gifts. In certain regions, the newlywed daughters are invited along with their husbands on this day to the in-laws house. This day is also celebrated as the day of Govardhan Puja and is observed by almost all Krishna devotees. It is also a day when it is believed that the Kinf of Demons, Bali was permitted to return from the deep hinterland to have a look at his subjects.
Day 5 – Bhai Duj – The last day of the festival commemorates the beautiful bonding between a brother and a sister. It is literally the day of the brothers second. On this day women get together and perform puja for their brothers and then put a tika on the brother’s forehead. This puja is supposed to take care of their brothers against all odds. Thus it is the celebration of a brother sister bonding.
Tradition of Gambling on Diwali
It is believed that on this night Lord Shiva and Devi Parvati while playing dice decided that whoever on earth will stay awake on this day will be blessed. Thus the tradition of staying awake at night and gambling is a part of Diwali celebrations.
New Year Celebration surrounding Diwali
The Marwari New Year is celebrated from the day of the Diwali. The Gujarati New Year celebration starts on the second day of the Diwali celebrations.
Celebrations of Diwali
In the state of Andhra Pradesh, the festivities center around the days of Naraka Chaturdashi and Deepavali. Devotees visit temples along with families to seek blessings from the gods. Some areas build up a huge Narakasura stuffed with firecrackers and dry grass. This is then set to fire by someone wearing a costume of Krishna or Satyabhama. People clean and color their houses and put rangoli. In the evening Goddess Lakshmi is worshipped. The entire house is lit with lamps and some houses also have the tradition of decorating house with paper figures. People buy expensive and colorful jewelry and clothes and the night sky is lit up with all kinds of fireworks.
In Goa and Kankan region too festivities start with Naraka Chaturdashi. Houses here too are cleaned and decorated and all the other rituals connected to Diwali are carried out. In these regions too Narakasura effigies filled with dry grass and fireworks are set to fire. These effigies re burnt at 4 am in the morning, after which men go home and have a scented bath after putting on scented bath oil on their bodies. A bitter berry called Kareet is crushed under feet symbolizing the removal of evil. Tulsi Vivah, Goverdhan Puja is then done.
In Gujarat as with rest of India celebrations start a little early. On the 11 th day of the Krishna Paksha of Aaso. On the 12th day is the festival of the cow and the calf called the Vagh Baras. Dhanteras is on the 13th day, the 14th day is celebrated as the kali Choudas and the 15th day is celebrated as the Lakshmi Puja. The next day is known as the Bestu Varsh or the New Year’s Day.
In Karnataka, celebrations start from the Naraka Chaturdashi, where celebrations are carried ou for Satyabhama’s win over the demon Narakasura. The 13th day of the Krishna paksha is called the day of the “neeru tumbo habba” when the houses are cleaned and decorated and vessels are all filled with fresh water. The 14th day is the Naraka Chaturdashi and on the 15th day Lakshmi Mahapooje is carried out. Houses are decorated and rangolis made to welcome the vanquished king Bali in their homes. A special entrance for welcoming to the house is made out of cow dung and sandalwood. Houses are decorated with keraka Giri. In almost all the households, Holiges and Chakkulis are a must for preparations.
In Maharashtra the celebrations start with the preparation of a salty and sweet savory called the Faral , which includes the Laddu, Karanji, Chakali, Chiwada etc. Vasubaras the 12th day starts the Diwali, when the cow and its calf sre worshipped and an aarti done to celebrate the bond between a mother and a child. The next day is the Dhana Troyodashi, or the Dhanteras when houses and commercial premises are cleaned and decorated and gold, silver or utensils bought. The next day is Naraka chaturdashi where bathing is an elaborate ritual with special oils, uptans and perfumes. In the evening Lakshmi Puja are done and traders open their new account for the new year. Firecrackers are burnt. The next day bali prati[ada, the wife after puja puts a tilak on the forehead of the husband and he responds with an expensive gift.
In Odisha, a Rangoli is made and filled with cotton mustard seeds salt turmeric etc. the departed sould are worshipped and Tarpanam done. All members post the sunset hold a lighted jutestick in their hands and symbolically show their forefathers light.
Tamil Nadu too celebrates the day with the celebration of Narakasura being killed in the hands of Lord Sri Krishna and his consort Satyabhama. People traditionally exchange sweets etc on this auspicious day. New clothes are worn and lots of firecrackers are burnt.
Uttar Pradesh celebrates Diwali as the homecoming of Lord Rama after a prolonged 14 year exile. The Varanasi Ghats look divine with all the lit lamps floating in the water. People wear new clothes and visit relatives and also prepare special sweets.
In Vraj region the festivities start with the Govatsa Dwadashi where the cows and calves are worshipped. On the second day being Dhanteras, people buy some utensils or precious metals like silver and gold. Diwali night is spent amongst much fanfare and the next day is celebrated as Govardhan Puja where Krishna had lifted the mountain Govardhana to save his own people from flood and rain. The last day Bhai Duuj here is known as Yama Dwitiya.
In the states on West Bengal, Northeast Bihar and Assam this day coincides with the Kali Puja. In this puja, it is not goddess Lakshmi, but Goddess Kali who worshipped. It is a one day celebration, though the night before is known as Bhoot chaturdashi where people light lamps all over. It is also a day of fireworks and the night sky is lit with them.
Significance of Diwali
Diwali is a time for consolidation. It is a time when the Good emerges winner over the evil or bad, when light lightens the darkness. Diwali is celebrated with family and they chose to complete all the rituals being together.