Diwali is a five day Hindu festival which occurs on the fifteenth day of Kartika. 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. Gifts are exchanged and festive meals are prepared during Diwali.Diwali in India is celebrated with jubilation and enthusiasm. It is one of the biggest festival of Hindus and is celebrated for five continuous days. Third day is the main day of Diwali and is celebrated as the ‘Festival of Lights’. To mark this day people light diyas and candles all around their house. During the evening Lakshmi Puja is performed to seek divine blessings of Goddess of Wealth. People also exchange Diwali Gifts with all their dear ones and burst fire crackers in the night to express their happiness.Date of Diwali Festival is not fixed as it is reckoned according to the position of the moon. According to Hindu calendar, Diwali falls on the 15th day of the dark fortnight of the auspicious Hindu month of Kartik (October/November). It comes on the no moon day or Amavasya. This Diwali date is significant for Hindus as it was on this particular day that Lord Ram was crowned as the King of Ayodhya on his return to the kingdom with wife Sita and brother Laxman after 14 years of exile and slaying of demon King Ravana. People celebrate Diwali by lighting diyas to dissipate the darkness of amavasya and commemorate the crowning of Lord Ram.
Diwali, being the festival of lights, thousands of lamps are lit in and outside every home on the day. Lamp, Diya or ‘Deep’ is the symbol of knowledge. Lighting the lamp of knowledge within us means to understand and reflect upon the significant purpose of each of the five days of festivities and to bring those thoughts in to our day to day lives.
According to popular legend, when Lord Rama returned from his 14 years of exile after defeating Raavana, the people of Ayodhya lighted candles and diya to celebrate his return to the Kingdom. The festival gets its name from the lines of diya that were celebrated the return of Lord Rama, and hence the name Deepavali,literally translating to “lines of light.”The name has gotten convoluted to Diwali over the years. This day symbolizes the victory of light over dark.
According to other legend, Pandavas from the Mahabharata returned to their homeland after 13 years and the day is celebrated to commemorate their return. The Sikhs celebrate this day to mark the day of freedom or the day when their Guru, Guru Har gobind got free from the jail. The Jains celebrate this day as they believe that Lord Mahavira attained enlightenment on this day. There are still other theories associated with Diwali such as the rising of Goddess Lakshmi from the sea, the killing of Narkasura by Lord Vishnu and birth of Goddess Kali.
An interesting story about this Diwali day is from the Kathopanishad. In this story, a small boy called Nichiketa believed that Yama, the god of Death was as black as the dark night of amavasya. But when he met Yama in person he was puzzled seeing Yama’s calm countenance and dignified stature. Yama explained to Nichiketa on this Diwali day of amavasya that by only passing through the darkness of death, man sees the light of highest wisdom. It is only then only his soul can escape from the bondage of his mortal frame to mingle with the Supreme Power. It was then that Nichiketa realized the importance of worldly life and significance of death. All of Nichiketa’s doubts were set to rest and he whole-heartedly participated in Diwali celebrations.
The first day of Diwali
The first day of Diwali is called Dhanvantari Triodasi or Dhanwantari Triodasi also called Dhan Teras .It is in fact the thirteenth lunar day of Krishna Paksh (the dark forthnight) of the month of Kartik. On this day, Lord Dhanwantari came out of the ocean with Ayurvedic medicine (medicine which promotes healthy long life) for mankind. This day marks the beginning of Diwali celebrations. On this day at sunset,Hindus should bathe and offer a lighted deeya with Prasad (sweets offered at worship time) 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 Diwali
The second day of Diwali is called Narak Chaturdasi. It is the fourteenth lunar day (thithi) of the dark forthnight of the month of Kartik and the eve of Diwali. 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 Diwali 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 Diwali 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 Diwali. 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 Diwali.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 Diwali – Actual Diwali
This is the day when worship unto Mother Lakshmi is performed. 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.
The fourth day of Diwali
On this day, Goverdhan Pooja is performed. Many thousands of years ago, Lord Krishna caused the people of Vraja to perform Goverdhan Pooja. From then on, every year Hindus worship Goverdhan to honour that first Pooja done by the people of Vraja. It is written in the Ramayan that when the bridge was being built by the Vanar army, Hanuman (a divine loyal servant of Lord Rama possessing enormous strength) 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 Dwapar when Lord Rama incarnates as Lord Krishna in the form of man. He, 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 Goverdhan (an incarnation of Lord Krishna),who manifested Himself in the form of the mountain.To fulfill this decree, Goverdhan Pooja was performed and is continued to be performed today.
The fifth day of Diwali
The fifth day of the diwali is called Bhai Duj. This is the day after Goverdhan Pooja is performed and normally two days after Diwali 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 Vardhan (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 Diwali celebrations. This is also known as Bhai fota among Bengalis. Bhai fota is an event especially among Bengalis when the sister prays for her brother’s safety, success and well being.
People close the old books of accounts and welcome the New Year with renewed faith. Houses are cleaned and painted to signify the start of a new period.Earthen lamps which denote our deep connection with mother earth are lighted. Ganesh, the God who symbolises stability, Saraswati, the Goddess of Learning and Laxmi, the Goddess of Prosperity are worshipped on this day. Together they signify that hard work, knowledge and awakening lead to abundance. Multi-colored Rangoli designs, floral decorations and fireworks lend vivid, colorful imagery and grandeur to this festival which heralds joy, mirth and happiness in the ensuing year.
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.
Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore has communicated the true significance of Diwali in one beautiful line: “The night is black. Kindle the lamp of love with thy life and devotion.”
Diwali – Around the world
Although Diwali is largely an Indian festival, it is widely celebrated in other countries as well such as Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Nepal, Myanmar, Maurititus and Fiji. In fact, Diwali is a national holiday in each of these countries.