Diwali – 2014
Diwali also known as Deepavali and the “festival of lights”, is an ancient Hindu festival celebrated in autumn every year. The festival spiritually signifies the victory of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, good over evil, and hope over despair. The festival preparations and rituals typically extend over a five day period, but the main festival night of Diwali coincides with the darkest, new moon night of the Hindu Lunisolar month Kartik.
People light up their homes 2-3 days prior to the festival and gifts are exchanged between friends and families. On the night of the festival, prayers are offered to Lord Vishnu and Goddess Lakshmi which is followed by bursting of fire crackers eating of sweets and other gourmet food.
Many see Diwali honouring the return of the lord Rama, his wife Sita and his brother Lakshmana from his fourteen year long exile and vanquishing the demon-king Ravana, as told in the ancient Hindu epic called the Ramayana. In joyous celebration of the return of their king, the people of Ayodhya, the Capital of Rama, illuminated the kingdom with earthen diyas (oil lamps) and burst crackers.
To some, Diwali marks the return of Pandavas after 12 years of Vanvas and one year of agyatavas in the other ancient Hindu epic called the Mahabharata. Many other Hindus believe Diwali is linked to the celebration of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity, and wife of deity Vishnu.
The five day festival of Diwali begins on the day Lakshmi was born from the churning of cosmic ocean of milk during the tug of war between the forces of good and forces of evil; the night of Diwali is the day Lakshmi chose Vishnu as her husband and then married him. Some Hindus offer pujas to additional or alternate deities such as Kali, Ganesha, Saraswati, and Kubera. Other Hindus believe that Diwali is the day Vishnu came back to Lakshmi and their abode in the Vaikuntha; so those who worship Lakshmi receive the benefit of her good mood, and therefore are blessed with mental, physical and material well-being during the year ahead.
5 days celebration of Diwali
In many parts of India, the festivities start with Dhanteras, followed by Naraka Chaturdasi on second day, Diwali on the third day, Diwali Padva dedicated to wife-husband relationship on the fourth day, and festivities end with Bhau-beej dedicated to sister-brother bond on the fifth day.
Dhanteras kicks off the five day festival. Starting days before and through Dhanteras, houses and business premises are cleaned, renovated and decorated. Women and children decorate entrances with Rangoli – creative colourful floor designs both inside and in the walkways of their homes or offices. Boys and men get busy with external lighting arrangements and completing all renovation work in progress. For some, the day celebrates the churning of cosmic ocean of milk between the forces of good and forces of evil; this day marks the birthday of Lakshmi – the Goddess of Wealth and Prosperity, and the birthday of Dhanvantari – the Goddess of Health and Healing. On the night of Dhanteras, diyas (lamps) are ritually kept burning all through the nights in honor of Lakshmi and Dhanvantari.
Healing. On the night of Dhanteras, diyas (lamps) are ritually kept burning all through the nights in honor of Lakshmi and Dhanvantari.
Narak Chaturdasi is the second day of festivities, and is also called Choti Diwali. Typically, house decoration and colourful floor patterns called rangoli are made on or before Narak Chaturdasi. Special bathing rituals such a fragrant oil bath are held in some regions, followed by minor pujas. Women decorate their hands with henna designs. Families are also busy preparing homemade sweets for main Diwali.
The third day is the main festive day. People wear new clothes or their best outfits as the evening approaches. Then diyas are lit, pujas are offered to Lakshmi, and to one or more additional deities depending on the region of India; typically Ganesha, Saraswati, and Kubera. Lakshmi symbolises wealth and prosperity, and her blessings are invoked for a good year ahead.
The day after Diwali, is celebrated as Padwa. This day ritually celebrates the love and mutual devotion between the wife and husband. The husbands give thoughtful gifts, or elaborate ones to respective spouses. In many regions, newly married daughters with their husbands are invited for special meals. Sometimes brothers go and pick up their sisters from their in-laws home for this important day. The day after Diwali devotees perform Goverdhan puja in honor of Lord Krishna.
Bhai Duj, Bhaiya Dooj
The last day of festival is called Bhai dooj (Brother’s second). It celebrates the sister-brother loving relationship, in a spirit similar to Raksha Bandhan but with different rituals. The day ritually emphasizes the love and lifelong bond between siblings. It is a day when women and girls get together, perform a puja with prayers for the well being of their brothers, then return to a ritual of food-sharing, gift-giving and conversations.