Deepavali which leads us into Truth and Light is celebrated on a nation-wide scale on Amavasya – the 15th day of the dark fortnight of the Hindu month of Kartika (October / November) every year. It symbolises 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. Deepavali 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 Vali, meaning a row. It means a row of lights and indeed illumination forms its main attraction. Every home – lowly or mightly – the hut of the poor or the mansion of the rich – is alit with the orange glow of twinkling deeyas-small earthen lamps – to welcome Lakshmi, Goddess of wealth and prosperity.
Deepavali is a five day Hindu festival ..
THE FIRST DAY OF DEEPAVALI
The first day of Deepavali is called Dhanvantari Triodasi . It is in fact the 13th lunar day of Krishna Paksh (the dark forthnight) of the month of Kartika. On this day, Lord Dhanwantari came out of the ocean with Ayurvedic medicine (medicine which promotes healthy long life)
This day marks the beginning of Deepavali celebrations. On this day at sunset, Hindus should bathe and offer a lighted deeya with Prasad to Yama Raj (the Lord of Death) and pray for protection from untimely death. This offering should be made near a Tulsi tree (the Holy Basil) or any other sacred tree that one might have in their yard. If there is no sacred tree, a clean place in the front yard will suffice.
THE SECOND DAY OF DEEPAVALI
The second day of Deepavali is called Naraka Chaturdasi. It is the fourteenth lunar day (thithi) of the dark forthnight of the month of Kartika and the eve of Deepavali. On this day Lord Krishna destroyed the demon Narakasur and made the world free from fear. On this day, we should massage our bodies with oil to relieve it of tiredness, bathe and rest so that we can celebrate Deepavali with vigour and devotion.
On this night, Yama Deeya should not be lit. The Shastras (Laws of Dharma) declares that Yama Deeya should be offered on Triodasi night with Prasad. The misconception that Yama Deeya should be offered on the night before Deepavali came about some years ago when the fourteenth lunar day (Chaturdasi) was of a very short duration and caused Triodasi to extend into the night before Deepavali. Some people mistook it to mean that because Yama Deeya was lit on that night, that it should always be lit on the night before Deepavali. This is absolutely not true. It is advisable that one consults with a learned Pandit or Hindu Astrologer for proper guidance on this matter.
THE THIRD DAY OF DEEPAVALI.
The third day is the actual deepavali. On this day Goddess Lakshmi is worshipped. Hindus cleanse themselves and join with their families and their Pandit (priest) and they worship the divine Goddess Lakshmi to achieve the blessings of wealth and prosperity, the triumph of good over evil and light over darkness. During this time, homes are thoroughly cleaned and windows are opened to welcome Lakshmi, goddess of wealth. Candles and lamps are lit as a greeting to Lakshmi.
THE FOURTH DAY OF DEEPAVALI.
On this day, Govardhan Pooja is performed. Many thousands of years ago, Lord Krishna caused the people of Vraja to perform Govardhan Pooja. From then on, every year Hindus worship Govardhan to honour that first Pooja done by the people of Vraja.
It is written in the Ramayana that when the bridge was being built by the Vanar army, Hanuman was bringing a mountain as material to help with the construction of the bridge. The call was given that enough materials was already obtained. Hanuman placed the mountain down before he could have reached the construction site. Due to lack of time, he could not have returned the mountain to its original place.
The deity presiding over this mountain spoke to Hanuman asking of his reason for leaving the mountain there. Hanuman replied that the mountain should remain there until the age of Dwapara Yuga when Lord Rama incarnates as Lord Krishna in the form of man. Lord Krishna will shower his grace on the mountain and will instruct that the mountain be worshiped not only in that age but but in ages to come. This deity whom Hanuman spoke to was none other than Govardhan (an incarnation of Lord Krishna),who manifested Himself in the form of the mountain. To fulfill this decree, Govardhan Pooja was performed and is continued to be performed today.
THE FIFTH DAY OF DEEPAVALI.
The fifth day of the Deepavali is called Bhratri Dooj. This is the day after Govardhan Pooja is performed and normally two days after Deepavali day. It is a day dedicated to sisters. We have heard about Raksha Bandhan (brothers’ day). Well this is sisters’ day. Many moons ago,in the Vedic era, Yama (Yamraj, the Lord of death) visited His sister Yamuna on this day. He gave his sister a Vara dhan (a boon) that whosoever visits her on this day shall be liberated from all sins. They will achieve Moksha or final emancipation. From then on, brothers visit their sisters on this day to enquire of their welfare. This day marks the end of the five days of Deepavali celebrations.
According to Ramayana, Deepavali commemorates the return of Ram, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu and the eldest son of King Dasharath of Ayodhya, from his 14-year exile with Sita and Lakshman after killing the Ravan, a demon king. The people of Ayodhya illuminated the kingdom with earthen deeyas (oil lamps) and fireworks to celebration of the return of their king.
During the reign of Emperor Prithu, there was a worldwide famine. He ordered that all available cultivatable lands be ploughed.When the rains came, the land became very fertile and grains were planted. The harvest provided food not only to feed all of India, but for all civilisation. This harvest was close to Deepavali time and was a good reason to celebrate Deepavali with great joy and merriment by a wider community.
When Lord Krishna destroyed Narakasur on the day before Deepavali, the news of it travelled very rapidly throughout the land. It gave people who were already in a joyful mood, another reason for celebrating Deepavali with greater pride and elaboration.
Celebrations of Deepavali begin from Dusshera, which comes twenty days before Deepavali. At a metaphysical level, Deepavali is a festival signifying the victory of good over evil, the latter is
destroyed and reduced to ashes by fireworks is the belief of the people. Different people celebrate Deepavali in different ways. Each region of India celebrates Deepavali in it’s own unique way.
People visit the places of their relatives and friends to wish them on the occasion and exchange gifts and for those who can not pay a personal visit there is a mind-boggling range of cards and gifts to choose from. Feasts are arranged and gaily-dressed men, women and children go to temples and fairs, visit friends and relatives. Markets are gaily decorated and lit up everybody adorned with new and bright clothes, especially ladies decorated with the best of ornaments, captures the social mood at its happiest. And all this illumination and fireworks, joy and festivity, is to signify the victory of divine forces over those of wickedness. Even countries like Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia celebrate this festival but in their own ways.
In Punjab, the day following Deepavali is known as tikka when sisters make a paste with saffron and rice and place an auspicious mark on their brother’s foreheads as a symbolic gesture to ward off all harm.
In North India on the day of the Deepavali the children emerge, scrubbed clean to get into their festive attire, and light up little oil lamps, candles and agarbathis the wherewithal for setting alight crackers and sparklers.
For the Bengalis, it is the time to worship Goddess Kali , yet another form of Durga, the divine embodiment of supreme energy. KALI is the Goddess who takes away darkness. She cuts down all impurities, consumes all iniquities, purifies Her devotees with the sincerity of Her Love.
For the grown-ups, there is also a custom of indulging in gambling during Deepavali. It is all in fun, though, in a spirit of light-hearted revelry, and merrymaking. The children can be seen bursting fire crackers and lighting candles or earthen lamps. This is a time of generously exchanging sweets with neighbors and friends. Puffed rice and sugar candy are the favorite fares.
Deepavali is a time for shopping, whether for gifts or for adding durable items to one’s own household. The market soars—everything from saffron to silver and spices to silks. Yet, symbolic purchases are to be made as part of tradition during Deepavali.
In South India that victory of the divine over the mundane is celebrated in a very peculiar way. People wake up before sunrise prepare blood by mixing Kumkum in oil and after breaking a bitter fruit that represents the head of the demon King that was smashed by Krishna, apply that mixture on their foreheads. Then they have an oil bath using sandalwood paste.
In Maharashtra also, traditional early baths with oil and “Uptan” (paste) of gram flour and fragrant powders are a `must’. All through the ritual of baths, deafening sounds of crackers and fireworks are there in order that the children enjoy bathing. Afterwards steamed vermiceli with milk and sugar or puffed rice with curd is served.
Whatever may be the legends behind the celebrations of Deepavali, all people in India exchange sweets, wear new clothes and buy jewellery at this festive time.
Diwali on the whole has always been the festival with more social than religious connotations. It is a personal, people-oriented festival when enmities are forgotten, families and friends meet,
enjoy and establish a word of closeness.