Diwali is the biggest and perhaps the brightest festivals of the Hindus. The five day celebration of the auspicious festival not only illuminates the country with light but also fills our life with joy and prosperity.
Diwali is often associated with lights, lamps, crackers, sweets and above all fun and enjoyment, the root of the celebration is devotion. People offer prayers to the Goddess Laxmi, so that she blesses them with wealth, prosperity and wisdom. A traditional puja is performed at sunset, to welcome her to the household and please her.
The process of the Puja differs from family to family based upon traditions and culture, but the underlying devotion to the deity remains the same. The preparations begin from the first day of the festival and on the third or actual day, most of the families purchase clay idols of Laxmi-Ganesh to worship them in simple or lavish ways, as they prefer.
It is mandatory to clean the entire home much before the Puja starts, because Laxmi cannot stay in dirty or filthy places. On the eve of pooja, the entire family gathers in the Puja room, and the idols are installed either in the mandir or on a raised platform. One can ask a priest to perform the rituals or even the head of the family can do it with true devotion in heart. The deities are bathed with rose water and milk before the actual puja can begin. This is the purification process which is repeated with Panchanmitra (mix of five elements – honey, curd, sugar, ghee and milk) and again with Gangajal or holy water of Ganges.
This is important as the proper purification is essential for invoking the deities. Incense sticks and other diyas are lit in front of the deities to start the process. After that, five special diyas or lamps are lit up in front, with ghee, and the significance is to drive away the evil forces away, if any. The pooja thali is prepared with different types of fruits and flowers, naivadya, and offered to the deities as “Bhog”. The entire environment is changed and every member of the family feels spiritualism inside them, when they close their eyes to chant the mantras or holy hymns to worship. Along with devotion the members of the family also offer auspicious items like, haldi, roli, sindoor, flowers etc to the deity which conveys their feelings to them. Members also offer silver coins, and other jewelery to god with an expectation of getting more in return.
Finally it is the time for aartis or special prayers offered to the deity in order to please the God and seek the blessings. This also is a way to welcome the holy spirit to the house and being grateful to him for everything. Ganesh aarti beings the process and subsequently Laxmi aarti, Ram aarti, and the very famous om jai jagadish follows to complete the process. After that the entire family gets “Prasad” and later on gets engaged in lighting diyas all over the house and bursting crackers with each other to enjoy the festival to the fullest.