Diwali, or Deepavali is the biggest festival of Lights and is widely celebrated in India. The word Diwali literally means “rows of lighted lamps” and it is a five day festival.
It starts with Dhanteras and the second day is often known as Chhoti Diwali or the Narak Chaturdasi, which a smaller version of the third day, the actual “diwali” day. The day is celebrated as the triumph of Lord Krishna over the demon Narkasur , the demon king.
In some parts of the country, this day is celebrated as the Hanuman jayanti or the birthday of hanuman jee, because it is believed that it is on this day the Monkey God reached Ayodhya and delivered and announced the return of Lord Rama.
It is called a chhoti diwali because people light lamps or “diyas ” and burst crackers, worship Goddess Laxmi and Lord Ganesha, just like the main Diwali, but in a smaller scale.
Special importance is given to cleanliness during this time. People wait eagerly for this day throughout the year so that they can celebrate with their family and friends. Almost all Hindus, who celebrate the five day Diwali festival with performing religious rituals, get up early in the morning and take a bath that purifies their body as well as mind. Some of them put rose water in the water for purification. As a part of celebration of the Chhoti Diwali, Hindus usually go for a body massage with oil before after taking bath. This is done to relax and bid a bye to tiredness. It is also believed that during chhoti Diwali night, one should not light up the Yama Diya.
Ladies then keep themselves engaged in preparing various kinds of sweets and special dishes which will be offered to Goddess Laxmi later on or the day after, when the actual celebration of the festival of Lights will take place. It is customary to put on new clothes during the festival and wear new ornaments as well. As the night comes, all the members of the family come together to celebrate the festival where they burn crackers, light the lamps, and above all enjoy together.
India may be a land of diverse culture but the customs and traditions hardly differs in significance. For example, in the southern part of the country, this day is celebrated in a bit different way. People get up before the sun rises and apply a paste of oil and kumkum or vermillion, which signifies blood and apply the mixture on all over the body, especially foreheads.
After that they eat any bitter fruit, that symbolizes Narakasura’s head that was demolished by Lord Krishna on this day. After that they take bath with water mixed with rose water and also apply sandalwood paste on body. This is how they celebrate the triumph of the good over the bad. Similarly in Maharashtra, a special paste or “uptan” is prepared with aromatic powders and besan or gram flour to be applied before bathing.
Surely this day marks the beginning of new hopes and joy with all negativities thrown out before Diwali knocks the door!