|It is Diwali which leads us into Truth and Light, the festival is celebrated on a nation-wide scale on Amavasya - the 15th day of the dark fortnight of the Hindu month of Kartik (October / November) every year. Diwali symbolizes that age-old culture of our country which teaches us to vanquish ignorance that subdues humanity and to drive away darkness that engulfs the light of knowledge. Diwali, the festival of lights even to-day in this modern world projects the rich and glorious past of our country and teaches us to uphold the true values of life.|
The word "Diwali", is the corruption of the Sanskrit word "Deepavali" -- Deepa meaning light and Avali, meaning a row. It means a row of lights and indeed illumination forms its main attraction. Every home of the low or the mighty - the hut of the poor or the mansion of the rich - is alit with the orange glow of twinkling diyas-small earthen lamps - to welcome Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity. Multi-colored Rangoli (the design of the background of this page is of rangoli, also people draw it with rice flour on the entrance of their house) designs, floral decorations and fireworks lend color and grandeur to this festival which heralds joy, mirth and happiness in the ensuring year.
This auspicious festival is celebrated on a grand scale in almost all the regions of India and is looked upon mainly as the beginning of a New Year. As such the blessings of Lakshmi, the celestial consort of Lord Vishnu are invoked with prayers. Even countries like Kenya, Thailand, Trinidad, Siam and Malaya celebrate this festival but in their own ways.
Diwali dates back to that period when perhaps history was not written, and in its progress through centuries it lighted path of thousands to attain the ultimate good and complete ecstasy.
Diwali or more aptly Deepavali is very enthusiastically celebrated for five continuous days and each day has its own significance with a number of myths, legends and beliefs.
DHANTERAS or DHANTRAYODASHI:-
The First day is called DHANTERAS or DHANTRAYODASHI which falls on the thirteenth day of the month of Kartik. The word "Dhan" means wealth. As such this day of the five-day Diwali festival has a great importance for the rich mercantile community of Western India. Houses and Business premises are renovated and decorated. Entrances are made colorful with lovely traditional motifs of Rangoli, drawn to welcome the goddess of wealth and prosperity. To indicate her long-awaited arrival, small footprints are drawn with rice flour and vermilion powder all over the house. Lamps are kept burning all through the night. Believing this day to be auspicious the women purchase some item or ornament in either gold or silver, or at least one or two new utensils. "Lakshmi-Puja" is performed in the evenings while tiny diyas of clay are lit to drive away the shadows of evil spirits. "Bhajans"-devotional songs- in praise of Goddess Laxmi are sung and "Naivedya" of traditional sweets is offered to the Goddess. There is a peculiar custom in Maharashtra to lightly pound dry coriander seeds with jaggery and offer as Naivedya.
In villages cattle is adorned and worshipped by farmers, as they form the main source of their income. In southern India cows are offered special veneration as they are supposed to be the incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi and therefore they are adorned and worshipped on this day.
A very interesting story about this day is related to the sixteen year old son of King Hima. As per his horoscope he was doomed to die by a snake-bite on the fourth day of his marriage. On that particular fourth day of his marriage his young wife did not allow him to sleep. She laid all the ornaments and lots of gold and silver coins in a big heap at the entrance of her husband's boudoir and lighted innumerable lamps all over the place. And she went on telling stories and singing songs. When Yam, the god of Death arrived there in the guise of a Serpent his eyes got blinded by that dazzle of those brilliant lights and he could not enter the Prince's chamber. So he climbed on top of the heap of the ornaments and coins and sat there whole night listening to the melodious songs. In the morning he quietly went away.
Thus the young wife saved her husband from the clutches of death. Since then this day of Dhanteras came to be known as the day of "YAMADEEPDAAN" and lamps are kept burning throughout the night in reverential adoration of Yam, the god of Death.
NARKA-CHATURDASHI or CHOTI DIWALI:-
The SECOND day is called NARKA-CHATURDASHI or CHOTI DIWAL which falls on the fourteenth day of the month of Kartik. The story goes that the demon king Narakasur ruler of Pragjyotishpur (a province to the South of Nepal) after defeating Lord Indra had snatched away the magnificent earrings of Aditi, the Mother Goddess and imprisoned sixteen thousand daughters of the gods and saints in his harem. On the day previous to Narakachaturdashi, Lord Krishna killed the demon and liberated the imprisoned damsels and also recovered those precious earrings of Aditi. As a symbol of that victory Lord Krishna, smeared his forehead with the demon king's blood. Krishna returned home in the early morning of the Narakachaturdashi day. The women folk massaged scented oil on his body and gave him a good bath to wash away the filth from his body. Since then the custom of taking bath before sunrise on this day has become a traditional practice especially in Maharashtra.
The THIRD day of the festival of Diwali is the most important day of LAKSHMI-PUJA which is entirely devoted to the propitiation of Goddess Lakshmi. This day is also known by the name of "CHOPADA-PUJA". On this very day sun enters its second course and passes Libra which is represented by the balance or scale. Hence, this design of Libra is believed to have suggested the balancing of account books and their closing. Despite the fact that this day falls on an amavasya day it is regarded as the most auspicious.
The day of Lakshmi-Puja falls on the dark night of Amavasya. The strains of joyous sounds of bells and drums float from the temples as man is invoking Goddess Lakshmi in a wondrous holy "pouring-in" of his heart. All of a sudden that impenetrable darkness is pierced by innumerable rays of light for a moment and the next moment a blaze of light descends down to earth from heaven as golden-footed Deep-Lakshmi alights on earth in all her celestial glory amidst chants of Vedic hymns. A living luminance of universal motherhood envelopes the entire world in that blessed moment of fulfillment of a long-awaited dream of the mortal. A sublime light of knowledge dawns upon humanity and devotion of man finally conquers ignorance. This self enlightenment is expressed through the twinkling lamps that illuminate the palaces of the wealthy as well as the lowly abodes of the poor. It is believed that on this day Lakshmi walks through the green fields and loiters through the bye-lanes and showers her blessings on man for plenty and prosperity. When the sun sets in the evening and ceremonial worship is finished all the home-made sweets are offered to the goddess as "NAIVEDYA" and distributed as "PRASAD". Feasts are arranged and gifts are exchanged on this day gaily dressed men, women and children go to temples and fairs, visit friends and relatives. Everything is gay, gold and glitter!
PADWA or VARSHAPRATIPADA:-
The FOURTH day is PADWA or VARSHAPRATIPADA which marks the coronation of King Vikramaditya and Vikaram-Samvat was started from this Padwa day.
Govardhan-Puja is also performed in the North on this day. As per Vishnu-Puran the people of Gokul used to celebrate a festival in honor of Lord Indira and worshipped him after the end of every monsoon season but one particular year the young Krishna stopped them from offering prayers to Lord Indra who in terrific anger sent a deluge to submerge Gokul. But Krishna saved his Gokul by lifting up the Govardhan mountain and holding it over the people as an umbrella.
The FIFTH and final day of Diwali Festival is known by the name of "BHAIYA-DOOJ" in the Hindi-speaking belt "BHAV-BIJ" in the Marathi-speaking communities and in Nepal by the name of "BHAI-TIKA". As the legend goes Yamraj, the God of Death visited his sister Yami on this particular day. She put the auspicious tilak on his forehead, garlanded him and fed him with special dishes and both of them together ate the sweets, talked and enjoyed themselves to their heart's content. While parting Yamraj gave her a special gift as a token of his love and in return Yami also gave him a lovely gift which she had made with her own hands. That day Yamraj announced that anyone who receives tilak from his sister will never be thrown. That is why this day of Bhayyaduj is also known by the name of "YAMA-DWITIYA" Since then this day is being observed as a symbol of love between sisters and brothers. It became also imperative for the brother to go to his sister's house to celebrate Bhayyaduj.
Bhai Dooj Festival:-
There are two festivals in the Indian calendar which celebrate the beautiful bond between brother and sister. The first is Raksha Bandhan and the second, bhai bij. While Raksha Bandhan is an affirmation of a brother's protection of his sister, Bhai Dooj is an affirmation of a sister's protection of her brother's well being, and is primarily celebrated in the northern states of India.
Bhai, of course, means brother, while 'Dooj' means 'second'. The festival is so named because Bhai Dooj falls on the second day after Diwali, or the second day of the new moon. This year, bhai bij falls on October 27thand the anticipation amongst sisters is palpable. After all, it is a time when every whim of the sister is attended to and she is lavished with gifts and sweets!
The fifth and last day of Diwali is known as 'Bhai dooj' or 'Bhai Bij'. The name itself denotes the day of the festival i.e it falls on Dooj, the second day after the new moon. This day Yamaraj went to his sister's house who put an auspicious mark on his forehead for his welfare.
Another version is after killing Narakasur, Lord Krishna, on his "Dooj Day' went to his sister Subhadra who welcomed him in the traditional way by showing him a light and putting on his forehead a tilak of her sisterly protection.
Another myth behind this begins as when Bhagawaan Mahavir found nirvana, his brother Raja Nandivardhan was distressed because he missed him and was comforted by his sister Sudarshana. Since then, women have been revered during this festival.
This day all sisters show their sisterly love for their brother by giving them a traditional and a loving welcome by applying a tilak on the forehead of their brothers for their safety and well being. They are then given gifts from their brothers and held in the highest respect.