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Deepavali

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DIWALI:

Legends Of Diwali

Diwali, the festival of lights, celebrates the abundance of autumn harvest and is dedicated to various gods and goddesses. The festival also marks an important date in the Indian calendar, as the North Indian kingdom of Avadha has celebrated this as the last day of Lord Rama's long exile of fourteen years.

As the citizens of Ayodhya eagerly awaited their beloved prince's return, they lit thousands of lamps to guide his flying vimana to their city. The darkest night of the year gave way to a glorious morning as Rama returned with his wife and brothers to his ancestral kingdom of Avadha.

Diwali also celebrates the gracious nature of the three goddesses, Lakshmi, Kali and Saraswati. Dhanteras (two days before Diwali) is dedicated to Lakshmi, whose blessings are essential for a prosperous, fruitful and peaceful life. Kali-Chudash (the day before Diwali) is dedicated to Maha Kali whose strength we seek to maintain the wealth we have. Strength, physical, mental and spiritual, is essential for all of us to lead a happy life. Diwali itself is dedicated to goddess Saraswati. Knowledge is the ultimate wealth, for it cannot be stolen from you; it is also the ultimate strength, for it often defeats brute force.

The Legends

Goddess Lakshmi : The Goddess of wealth, Lakshmi was incarnated on the new moon day (amaavasyaa) of the Kartik month during the churning of the ocean (samudra-manthan), hence the association of Diwali with Lakshmi.

Vishnu Rescued Lakshmi: On this very day, Lord Vishnu in his fifth incarnation as Vaman-avtaara rescued Lakshmi from the prison of King Bali and this is another reason of worshipping Ma Larkshmi on Diwali.

Krishna Killed Narakaasur: On the day preceding Diwali, Lord Krishna killed the demon king Narakaasur and rescued 16,000 women from his captivity. The celebration of this freedom went on for two days including the Diwali day as a victory festival.

The Return of the Pandavas: According to the great epic 'Mahabharata', it was 'Kartik Amavashya' when the Pandavas appeared from their 12 years of banishment as a result of their defeat in the hands of the Kauravas at the game of dice (gambling). The subjects who loved the Pandavas celebrated the day by lighting the earthen lamps.

The Victory of Rama: According to the epic 'Ramayana', it was the new moon day of Kartik when Lord Ram, Ma Sita and Lakshman returned to Ayodhya after vanquishing Ravana and conquering Lanka. The citizens of Ayodhya decorated the entire city with the earthen lamps and illuminated it like never before.

Coronation of Vikramaditya: One of the greatest Hindu King Vikramaditya was coronated on the Diwali day, hence Diwali became a historical event as well.

Regional Names of Diwali in India

The customs of celebrating Diwali, the festival of light vary from region to region. Though the theme of Diwali is universal, ie, the triumph of Good over Evil, the Darkness paving way for Light and Ignorance leading to Knowledge. With warmer days turning into a mild winter, the fun-filled Deepavali, is celebrated for five days from Krishna Chaturdashi to Kaartik Shukla Dwiteeya. Diwali is observed by Hindus, Sikhs & Jains, each community celebrating Diwali for different reasons.

Before Diwali

Days before Diwali, people start decorating their homes, preparing sweets, light up their homes with colorful lights, buy new clothes & Jewelry. But in some Indian regions the rituals of Diwali starts off two days before Danteras, ie the first day of Diwali. Such festival are:

Agyaras: The Patels and the Vaishnavs begin their Diwali celebrations before Dhan Teras, on the 11th day of Ashwin. The day is devoted to preparing the choicest snacks and savories.

Wagh Baras: This day signifies the importance of women in society. Women in the house are worshiped and they buy new clothes and jewelry.

Five Days Of Diwali

Deewali is a festival of joy, splendor, brightness and happiness. It is the festival of lights and is celebrated with great enthusiasm by all Indians all over the world. The uniqueness of this festival is its harmony of five varied philosophies, with each day to a special thought or ideal. People celebrate each of its five days of festivities with true understanding, it will uplift and enrich the lives.

The first day of Diwali: Dhanteras

The second day of Diwali: Choti Diwali

The third day of Diwali: Lakshmi Puja on Diwali

The fourth day of Diwali: Padwa & Govardhan Puja

The fifth day of Diwali: Bhai Duj

First Day:    Dhanteras

Dhanteras marks the first day of five-days-long Diwali Festival. Dhanteras Festival, also known as Dhantrayodashi or Dhanwantari Triodasi, falls on the auspicious thirteenth lunar day of Krishna Paksha in the Hindu month of Kartik (October/November). In the word Dhanteras, "Dhan" stands for wealth. On Dhanteras Goddess Laxmi is worshiped to provide prosperity and well being. Hence Dhan Teras holds a lot more significance for the business community.

Dhanteras Legends

A very interesting story about Dhanteras Festival says that once the sixteen year old son of King Hima. was doomed to die by a snake-bite on the fourth day of his marriage as per his horoscope. 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 Yama, 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 to Yam, the god of Death.

According to another popular legend, when the gods and demons churned the ocean for Amrit or nectar, Dhanavantri (the physician of the gods and an incarnation of Vishnu) emerged carrying a jar of the elixir on the day of Dhanteras.

Dhanteras Preparations

To mark the auspicious day, houses and business premises are renovated and decorated. Entrances are made colorful with lovely traditional motifs of Rangoli designs 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 houses. Lamps are kept burning all through the nights.

Dhanteras Traditions

On Dhanteras Hindus consider it auspicious to purchase gold or silver articles or at least one or two new utensils. It is believed that new “Dhan” or some form of precious metal is a sign of good luck. "Laxmi-Puja" is performed in the evenings when tiny Diyas of clay are lighted to drive away the shadows of evil spirits. "Bhajans"-devotional songs- in praise of Goddess Laxmi are also sung.

Dhanteras Celebrations

Dhanteras is celebrated with gusto and enthusiasm. "Lakshmi-Puja" is performed in the evenings when tiny diyas of clay are lighted to drive away the shadows of evil spirits. Bhajans ir devotional songs- in praise of Goddess Laxmi are sung and "Naivedya" (offering) 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 are adorned and worshiped by farmers as they form the main source of their income. In south cows are offered special veneration as they are supposed to be the incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi and therefore they are adorned and worshiped on this day.

Second Day: Choti Diwali / Narak Chaturdasi

The day before Diwali is celebrated as Chhoti Diwali / Narak Chaturdasi or 'small Diwali'. It is Diwali on a smaller scale, with fewer lights lit and fewer crackers burst. The morning after Choti Diwali, the women of the house make beautiful, colored rangoli in the doorway and courtyard. Tiny footprints made out of rice paste are a special feature of the rangolis made for Diwali. In Hindu homes, Chhoti Diwali celebrations involve a ritual puja to Goddess Lakshmi and also to Rama in the evening. Songs in honor of the god are sung and aarti is performed.

Legends behind Chhoti Diwali

As per the legends associated with Choti Diwali are concerned there is one famous legend of the demon king Narakasur, who used to rule over Pragjyotishpur, which is a province in the South of Nepal. After winning the war with the deities of the heaven, he empowered the kingdom of Lord Indra, imprisoned sixteen thousand daughters of the gods and harems in the heaven and even snatched the earrings of Mother Goddess Aditi, who was not only the mother of the deities of heaven but also the relative of Satyabhama, Lord Krishna's wife. Satyabhama lost her cool on hearing about this malevolent act of Narakasur and prayed to Lord Krishna to empower her so that she could be able to kill Narakasur. Narakasur was under a curse that a woman would kill him. So Lord Krishna empowered Satyabhama and she was able to murder Narakasur by beheading him. She then rescued the sixteen thousand women prisoners from the clutches of Narakasur and even recovered Mother Goddess Aditi's earrings. In order to save the women from embarrassment, Lord Krishna married all the sixteen thousand women and accepted them as His wife.

Lord Krishna smeared his forehead with blood as a sign of victory over Narakasur and returned home with his wives on the morning of Choti Diwali. Lord Krishna was massaged with scented oil by the womenfolk on the morning of Narak Chaturdasi and since then it became a practice to take a bath before sunrise on the day of Narak Chaturdasi.

According to another legend associated with Choti Diwali, there was a king of the nether world by the name of 'King Bali'. Though a demon, King Bali was very influential and his increasing powers posed a great threat to the deities of the heaven who went to Lord Vishnu asking for his help in eradicating King Bali. Lord Vishnu took the incarnation of 'Batu Waman', a short-height Brahmin and went to King Bali and begged him for that area of land which He would be able to cover by his three steps as King Bali was very much famous for his philanthropy.

When king Bali saw the small size of the Brahmin and heard about his request he just smiled and readily granted the Brahmin's request. At this moment the Brahmin got converted into Lord Vishnu who covered heaven with his first step and the earth with his second step. With his third step Lord Vishnu covered king Bali's head and pushed him into the underground. But at the same time being impressed with King Bali's generosity Lord Vishnu granted the king with the lamp of knowledge and allowed him to visit his kingdom once a year.

Since that day the day of the death of King Bali came to be commemorated through the celebrations of Choti Diwali.

Third Day: Lakshmi Puja on Diwali

The third day of the festival of Diwali is the most important day of Lakshmi-puja and is entirely devoted to the propitiation of Goddess Lakshmi. On this very day sun enters his 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 Laxmi in a wondrous holy "pouring-in" of his heart. All of a sudden that impenetrable darkness is pierced by innumerable rays of light for just 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 chantings of Vedic hymns.

A sublime light of knowledge dawns upon humanity and this self enlightenment is expressed through the twinkling lamps that illuminate the palaces of thewealthy 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.

Lakshmi Pooja, or the worship of the goddess of wealth, is the main event on Diwali in North and West India. It is extremely important to keep the house spotlessly clean and pure on Diwali. Goddess Lakshmi likes cleanliness, and she will visit the cleanest house first. This is also the reason why the broom is worshiped on this day with offerings of haldi and kumkum (turmeric and vermilion). Lamps are lit in the evening to welcome the goddess. They are believed to light up Her path.

 

Lakshmi Puja consists of a combined puja of five deities: Ganesha is worshiped at the beginning of every auspicious act as Vighnaharta; Goddess Lakshmi is worshiped in her three forms - Mahalakshmi (the goddess of wealth and money), Mahasaraswati (the goddess of books and learning), and Mahakali; Kuber (the treasurer of the gods) is also worshiped.

Lakshmi Pooja

             

Lakshmi was the daughter of the sage Bhrigu and took refuge in the ocean of milk when the gods were sent into exile. Lakshmi was reborn during the Churning of the Ocean. As soon as the gods saw Lakshmi, they all fell in love with her beauty. Shiva claimed Lakshmi as his wife, but since he had already taken the Moon, her hand was given to Vishnu, whom Lakshmi herself preferred.

Lakshmi is the goddess of light, beauty, good fortune and wealth. While Laxmi is generally worshiped to achieve success, she does not reside long with anyone who is lazy or desire her only as wealth.

Steps of Lakshmi Pooja

Spread a new cloth on a raised platform: Place a handful of grains in the center and, on this, place a kalash (pitcher) made of gold, silver, copper, or terracotta. Fill three-fourth of the kalash with water and place a betel nut, a flower, a coin, and some rice grains in it. Arrange five kinds of leaves or mango leaves in the kalash . Place a small dish on the kalash and fill it with rice grains. Draw a lotus with turmeric powder ( haldi ) over the rice grains and place the idol of goddess Lakshmi over it, along with coins.

Place the idol of Ganesha: In front of the kalash, on the right (South-West direction), place the idol of Ganesha. Also place ink and books related to your business or occupation on the platform. Light a lamp and begin the puja by offering haldi, kumkum, and flowers to the platform on which the kalash is placed. Then offer haldi, kumkum, and flowers to the water that is to be used for the puja. Invoke the river goddesses to be part of this water.

Invoke goddess: Lakshmi by reciting the Vedic mantras addressed to her. One can also recite the mantras mentioned in the Puranas or simply take some flowers in your hands, close your eyes, and think of goddess Lakshmi being showered with gold coins by two elephants standing on either side of Her and chant Her name. Then offer the flowers to the idol.

Place the idol of Lakshmi: Place the idol of Lakshmi in a plate and bathe it with water, panchamrit (a mixture of milk, curd, ghee or clarified butter, honey, and sugar) and then with water containing some gold ornament or a pearl. Wipe the idol clean and place it back on the kalash. Alternately, you can just sprinkle water and panchamrit on the idol with a flower.

Offerings: Offer sandal paste, saffron paste, perfume ( itr ), haldi, kumkum, abeer, and gulal to the goddess. Offer a garland of cotton beads to the goddess. Offer flowers, especially the marigold flowers and leaves of Bel (wood apple tree). Light an incense stick and dhoop. Make an offering of sweets, coconut, fruits, and tambul. Make an offering of puffed rice and batasha. Pour some puffed rice, batasha, coriander seeds, and cumin seeds over the idol. Safe where you keep money and jewelry; Worship this safe as a symbol of Lord Kuber.

Aarti: Finally, perform the aarti for goddess Lakshmi. Always remember that She abhors loud noise. So the aarti should be accompanied only by a small bell. Do not clap hands, as is the practice when performing aarti for other gods. A peaceful and sublime atmosphere should prevail during the pujan. Do not light crackers while the puja is on or immediately after it.

Fourth Day: Padwa & Govardhan Puja

Padwa

The day following the Amavasya is "Kartik Shuddh Padwa" and it is only on this day that the King Bali would come out of Pathal Loka and rule Bhulok as per the boon given by Lord Vishnu. Hence, it is also known as "Bali Padyami". This day also marks the coronation of King Vikramaditya and Vikaram-Samvat was started from this Padwa day.

Gudi Padwa is symbolic of love and devotion between the wife and husband. On this day newly-married daughters with their husbands are invited for special meals and given presents. In olden days brothers went to fetch their sisters from their in-laws home for this important day.

Govardhan-Puja

Govardhan-Puja is also performed in the North on this day. Govardhan is a small hillock in Braj, near Mathura and on this day of Diwali people of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar build cowdung, hillocks, decorate them with flowers and then worship them. This festival is in commemoration of the lifting of Mount Govardhan by Krishna. As per Vishnu-Puran the people of Gokul used to celebrate a festival in honor of Lord Indra and worshiped 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.

People were afraid that the downpour was a result of their neglect of Indra. But Krishna assured them that no harm would befall them. He lifted Mount Govardhan with his little finger and sheltered men and beasts from the rain. This gave him the epithet Govardhandhari. After this, Indra accepted the supremacy of Krishna.

 

This day is also observed as Annakoot meaning mountain of food. Pious people keep awake the whole night and cook fifty-six or 108 different types of food for the bhog (the offering of food) to Krishna. In temples specially in Mathura and Nathadwara, the deities are given milkbath, dressed in shining attires with ornaments of dazzling diamonds, pearls, rubies and other precious stones. After the prayers and traditional worship innumerable varieties of delicious sweets are ceremoniously raised in the form of a mountain before the deities as "Bhog" and then the devotees approach the Mountain of Food and take Prasad from it.

Fifth Day: Bhai Duj / Bhaiya Duj / Bhai Dooj

The fifth day of Deepavali or Diwali is celebrated as Bhaiya Dooj, popularly know as Bhai Dooj. 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. Thus, on this day sisters perform puja for their brothers safety and well being. Brothers in return give gifts to their sisters as a token of love.

Another version is after killing Narakasur, Lord Krishna, 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.

The festival of Diwali is not complete without "Bhaiyya-Duj" in the Hindi-speaking belt, "Bhav--Bij" in the Marathi-speaking communities, "Bhai Phota" to the Bengalees and in Nepal by the name of "Bhai-Tika".

Diwali is a personal, people-oriented festival when enmities are forgotten, families and friends meet, enjoy and establish a word of closeness. Reflecting this essence, Bhai dooj has its own importance in continuing to maintain the love between brothers and sisters for it is the day of food-sharing, gift-giving and reaching out to the inner most depths of the hearts.

As a festival of light and beauty it encourages artistic expressions through home-decorations stage-plays, elocution competitions singing and dancing programmes, making gift items and making delectable sweets thereby discovering new talents of younger people. As a result innumerable communities with varying cultures and customs mingle together to make Bhai Dooj celebrations a very happy occasion for all.

Diwali Meaning & Significance

Deepavali is a festival where people from all age groups participate. They give expression to their happiness by lighting earthen 'diyas' (lamps), decorating the houses, bursting firecrackers and inviting near and dear ones to their households for partaking in a sumptuous feast. The lighting of lamps is a way of paying obeisance to god for attainment of health, wealth, knowledge, peace, valor and fame.

It is one time in the whole year that children volunteer to leave their beds long before the day begins. In fact, the traditional oil bath at 3 a.m, is the only chore that stands between them and the pre-dawn adventures. They emerge, scrubbed clean to get into their festive attire, and light up little oil lamps, candles and scented sticks(agarbathis), the wherewithal for setting alight crackers and sparklers.

On Diwali night, little clay lamps are lit in Hindus homes, but now a days colored electric lamps are also used. What is the significance of lighting a lamp? There is a logical answer to this question. It is through the light that the beauty of this world is revealed or experienced. Most civilizations of the world recognize the importance of light as a gift of God. It has always been a symbol of whatever is positive in our world of experience.

To Hindus, darkness represents ignorance, and light is a metaphor for knowledge. Therefore, lighting a lamp symbolizes the destruction, through knowledge, of all negative forces- wickedness, violence, lust, anger, envy, greed, bigotry, fear, injustice, oppression and suffering, etc. Competition is stiff, and even the little girl in silk frocks and their finery are watching out for the best sparklers and flowerpots, the rockets and Vishnuchakras, which light-up the night sky like a thousand stars. Grown-ups are the soul of generosity. Festive bonhomie abounds.

Diwali Celebrations

In the midst of today's busy lifestyle, Diwali gives an opportunity to pause and be grateful for what we have, to make special memories with family and friends, to laugh and enjoy what life offers us. Though the festival of Dipavali has undergone some changes, in due course of time, yet it has continued to be celebrated since the time immemorial. Every year, the festive season of Diwali comes back with all the excitement and merriment. Times may have undergone a sea change but customs and traditions remain the same.

It is difficult to state that, since when the festival of Dipavali has been celebrating in its present form. In India, the economy is based on agriculture, this festival was believed to be started as the celebration of 'rituparva' thousands of years ago. By this time the harvest of crops were complete. As a result the people had not to worry about food for the rest of year. This joys of their reflected ion the illumination of countless lamps. In due course of time, numerous historical incidents got connected with this festival. There are many tales in the Puranas related with this festival.

 

 

With the evolution of the lifestyle, there has been certain change in the way people celebrate Diwali, as more and more technology has been included, but the zeal and the spirit of celebration remains the same. Earthen lamps may have been replaced with stunning electric illuminations, dress code may have changed, but the custom and tradition of performing puja has been carried very well through generations.

                      

People wake up at the crack of dawn to conduct the customary pujas. Dressed in brilliant silks and glittering gold jewelry families gather and light crackers to usher in the great evening. After a session of bursting crackers, its time to visit friends and relatives. Armed with sweets and savories people meet their near and dear ones. Even today, Diwali is such a wonderful festival, a time of giving and sharing, a time to catch up with people, in other words its time to catch up with the little joys that we keep overlooking for the remaining part of the year.

 

This year Deepavali falls on 27th October 2008. WISH YOU ALL A HAPPY AND SAFE DEEPAVALI.

 

 

 

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4 Comments

ARANYAKA's picture
Good work.Enjoyed reading it.
srividya76's picture
Thank you so much.
Sanghi's picture
Very good article Srividya. Wish you too a very Happy deepavali..!
srividya76's picture
Thank you and same to you Sanghi