Diwali or Deepavali signifies the triumph of good over evil. It is called the festival of lights and is one of the most celebrated holiday seasons in India. To represent the victory of light over darkness, clay lamps are lighted and firecrackers are burned.
The history behind the celebration
Diwali is a fusion of harvest festival in India. There is mentioning of this celebration in ancient Sanskrit classics like Padma Purana and Skanda Purana. One tradition links this celebration to the epic Ramayana. Lord Rama who is an incarnation of Lord Vishnu defeats the demon king Ravana and brings his wife Sita along with Hanuman (his disciple and friend) to Ayodhya. After a 14-year period in exile, Rama’s army of good defeated the demon king Ravana’s army of evil in the Treta Yuga.
Read about Ayurveda in Ramayana here.
Another popular story dates to Dwapara Yuga when Lord Krishna the incarnation of Lord Vishnu killed the Demon Narakasura, who was the evil king of Pragjyotishapura, near present-day Assam and released 16000 girls captivated by Narakasura.
So many other mythical tales related with many Hindu gods and goddesses are associated with the celebration of Diwali. Whatever be the story the whole idea of celebration is to glorify the success of Knowledge over ignorance or light over darkness.
How Diwali is celebrated?
Diwali is a five-day festival, the height of which is celebrated on the third day coinciding with the darkest night of the lunar month. Homes and temples are illuminated with diyas, candles and lanterns. A ritual oil bath is mandatory for Hindus during the dawn of these days.
Read more about ABHYANGA here.
There would be fireworks and decoration of the hallways and floors with Rangoli and colors. Food is a major focus and sweets are unavoidable during this occasion. The festival formally begins two days before the night of Diwali and ends two days thereafter.
Importance of each of the days of Diwali
Day 1 – Dhanetra
Houses and business premises are cleaned during this day. Small lamps made of clay are lit in front of Goddess Lakshmi (Hindu Goddess of wealth and prosperity) and Lord Ganesha. The doorways and floors are designed with colorful Rangoli. It is a symbol of cleansing and for a new beginning.
Day 2 – Naraka Chaturdashi
The day end its rituals are interpreted as ways to liberate any souls from their suffering in “Naraka”, or hell, as well as a reminder of spiritual auspiciousness. A mythological interpretation is the killing of Narakasura by Lord Krishna. A variety of sweets are prepared using flour, semolina, rice, chickpea flour, dry fruit pieces powders or paste, milk solids (mawa or khoya) and clarified butter (ghee). Ghee is a major ingredient in all the sweets and the usage of Ghee is considered auspicious.
Learn how to make Homemade Ghee here.
Day 3 – Lakshmi Pujan day
The term Diwali or Festival of lights becomes true on this day. During the evening, everyone in the family is dressed up in new clothes and jewelry and prayers will also be offered to other deities, such as Ganesha, Saraswati, Rama, Lakshmana, Sita, Hanuman, or Kubera. Earthern ware lamps are lighted in house, office premises and even in the streets. On the night of Laksmi Puja, rituals across much of India are dedicated to Lakshmi to welcome her into their cleaned homes and bring prosperity and happiness for the coming year. The lighting of lamp and firecrackers is to invite Lakshmi to the home.
Day 4 – Govardhan Puja
According to tradition, this day is to celebrate the victory of Lord Rama against Bali, another story from Ramayana. It is also honoring the legend of the Hindu god Krishna saving the cowherd and farming communities from incessant rains and floods triggered by Indra’s anger and he lifts up the Govardham mountain to protect them.
Day 5 – Bhai Duj
The last day of the festival is celebrated as Brother’s day. Similar to Rakshabandhan but the brother visits the sister. It is interpreted as the arrival of Krishna at his sister’s, Subhadra, place after defeating Narakasura. Subhadra welcomes him with a tilaka on his forehead.
Every year, Indian communities all over the world celebrate Diwali, the Festival of Lights, with much fanfare.
May this festival of lights bring you peace, prosperity, success, health and great happiness!