The festival of Diwali is widely celebrated In India, by people of all ages, with lights of lamps and sound of crackers and lots of fervor and gaiety within themselves. Various histories are associated with it and almost all of them depict the triumph of the good over the bad!
Each of the five days of this festival has a separate history of its own. The first day is called the Dhanteras when Dhanvantari, the Physician of the Gods, came out of the oceans with a pot of elixir for the welfare of human species. This is also called the Yamadeepan when Hima, a prince with a death prediction was saved by his wife when she piled all her ornaments near the entrance to stop Yama, the Lord of death, in disguise of a serpent. So the day marks the victory of life over death and hence widely celebrated.
The second day’s history is closely related to Lord Krishna where he killed the demon Narakasura and rescued thousands of women from his prison. It is hence known as Narak Chaturdasi or Chhoti Diwali. This day thus marks the freedom of mankind from every evil vice he possesses.
The third day is the most significant day of the festival and there are many interesting histories associated with it. On this day, Goddess laxmi, the symbol of wealth and prosperity emerged out from the sea to shower her blessings on her devotees. So she is widely worshipped after the sunset. Also on this very day Lord Rama returned to his kingdom after a long exile of 14 years and people celebrated the occasion with thousands of lamps to honor his triumphant victory over demon Ravana. According to historical references, the Pandavas also returned from their banishment on this very day of Diwali and that gives another reason to celebrate.
The fourth day’s history dates back to Lord Krishna again where he saved the Gokul residents from the anger of Lord Indra, by lifting up the Govardhan Mountain. Hence in North India, govardhan puja is performed on this day. This day also witnesses the Annakoot Puja where a mountain of food is offered to the Lord as “Bhog”. On this very day, the demon king Bali is believed to come back on earth to rule for a day, as he was blessed by Lord Vishnu.
The auspicious festival ends with sweet note when on the final day, when Bhai Duj gets celebrated all over the country to strengthen the bond between brother and sisters. The history is related to Yama where he was warmly welcomed to his sister’s place on the day and rituals were performed for his long life.
Among the Sikhs, Diwali is celebrated because History depicts that Guru Har Govind Singh jee came back from prison and lamps are lit on the Golden Temple to honor his retreat.
The history of Diwali has some connection to the Jains as well. On this day, Mahavir attained Nirvana and the festival is celebrated to commemorate this holy attempt.