Diwali

Diwali(Deepavali) is the one Hindu festival that unites the whole of India. It is traditionally known as the "festival of lights", for the common practice is to light small oil lamps (called diyas) and place them around the home, in courtyards, gardens, verandahs, on the walls built around the home and also on the roof tops. In cities, especially, candles are substituted for diyas; and among the riches, candles are made to substitute for fashionable and classy neon lights. The celebration of the festival is customarily accompanied by the exchange of sweets and the explosion of fireworks. Diwali(Deepavali) is an occasion for cheerfulness and togetherness. This is an occasion for young and the old, men and women, rich and poor - for everyone to celebrate. Irrespective of their religious and economic background, the festival is celebrated throughout the country to ward off the darkness and welcome light into life as light is always associated with hope for the future. Deepavali is celebrated 20 days after Dussera, on Amavasya - the 15th day of the dark fortnight of the Hindu month of Ashwin (Aasho) in (Oct/ Nov) every year.

Diwali celebrates Rama's homecoming, that is his return to Ayodhya after the defeat of Ravana and his coronation as king The legend related to the festival is that King Dashratha had three wives namely Kaushalaya, Keykayee and Sumitra and four sons Rama, Bharat, Laxmana and Shatrughan. Rama was the son of Queen Kaushalaya and Bharat was the son of Queen Keykayee. Keykayee wanted Bharat to be the next King of Ayodhya, while King Dasharatha wanted Rama, his eldest son to be the future King. Queen Keykayee made full use of the two wishes King Dasharatha had promised her earlier in life. Keykayee asked for sending Rama to exile for the period of fourteen years and to crown Bharat as the king, though Bharat refused to accept the kingship. During that time Lord Rama fought and won fierce battle in the southern part of the Indian sub-continent, killing the king of Demons, Ravana who had forcibly taken away his wife Sita. Deepavali marks his victorious return to his kingdom along with Hanuman, the Vanar who helped him in achieving success. The legend states it took 20 days for Rama to return to his kingdom after defeating Ravana. As with other Indian festivals, Diwali signifies many different things to people across the country. In north India, Deepavali celebrates Rama's homecoming from fourteen years of exile that is his return to Ayodhya after defeating Ravana and his coronation as king; in Gujarat, the festival is celebrated to honor goddess Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth; and in Bengal, it is related with goddess Kali. Though everywhere, it is celebrated with the same sprit and signifies the renewal of life.

Diwali is one of the most celebrated festivities in the Indian culture. Uniting all members of the community, young and old, rich or poor, the lighting of the lamps represents a way of paying obeisance to God for attainment of health, wealth, knowledge, peace and valoured fame. People give expressions to their happiness by lighting earthen diyas and decorating the houses to welcome Lakshmi- the Goddess of wealth and prosperity, bursting fire crackers and inviting the near and dear ones to their households for partaking in the luxurious feast. It is also marked as the beginning of the Hindu New Year and as a brand new beginning for all. Diwali is celebrated for five days, each day having it's own significance, rituals and myths.

# First Day of Diwali
# Second Day of Diwali
# Third Day of Diwali
# Fourth Day of Diwali
# Fifth Day of Diwali

The First day is called Dhanteras or Dhantryaodashi, which falls on the thirteenth day of the month of Ashwin. The word "Dhan" means wealth. This day has great importance for rich community. It is believed that sixteen year old son of King Hima according to his horoscope was doomed to die on the fourth day of his marriage by a snake-bite. So, on the fourth day of his marriage his worried wife lighted innumerable lamps all over the place and laid all the ornaments and lots of gold and silver coins in a big heap at the entrance of her husband's boudoir. She went on telling stories and singing songs through the night. When Yam-the god of death arrived there in the guise of a serpent the dazzle of those brilliant lights blinded his eyes and he could not enter the prince's chamber. So he climbed the heap of the ornaments and coins and sat their whole night listening to the melodious songs. In the morning he went away quietly. Thus the wife saved her husband and 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.

The Second day is called Narka-Chaturdashi or Chhoti Diwali that falls on the fourteenth day of the month of Ashwin. The legend related to this day is about King Bali of the nether world whose mighty power had become a threat to the gods. In order to curb his powers Lord Vishnu in the guise of a small boy visited him and begged him to give him only that much land which he could cover with his three steps. Known for his philanthropy King Bali proudly granted him his wish. So with his first step Lord Vishnu covered the entire heaven and with the second step the earth and asked Bali where to keep his third step. Bali offered his head and putting his foot on his head Vishnu pushed him down to the underworld. Though for his generosity Lord Vishnu allowed him to return to earth once a year to light millions of lamps to dispel the darkness and ignorance and spread the radiance of love and wisdom.

The Third day of the festival of Diwali is the most important day of Lakshmi-Puja, which is entirely devoted to the propitiation of Goddess Lakshmi. This day is also known by the name of "Chopada-Puja". The day of Lakshmi-Puja falls on the dark night of Amavasya. It is believed that on this auspicious day Lord Krishna discarded his body. One more interesting story related to this day is of a small boy called Nichiketa who believed that Yam, the god of Death was as black as the dark night of amavasya. He on this day met Yam in person and was puzzled seeing Yam's calm countenance and dignified stature. Yam explained to Nichiketa on this day of amavasya that by only passing through the darkness of death, man sees the light of highest wisdom and then only his soul can escape from the bondage of his mortal frame to mingle with the Supreme Power without whose will nothing moves in the world. It was then that Nichiketa realised the importance of worldly life and significance of death. Nichiketa's all doubts were set at rest and he whole-heartedly participated in Diwali celebrations.

The Fourth day is called Padwa or VarshaPratipada that marks the coronation of King Vikramaditya and Vikaram-Samvat was started from this Padwa day. Govardhan-Puja is also performed in the North on this day. As per Vishnu-Puran, the people of Gokul used to celebrate a festival in honour of Lord Indra and worshipped him after the end of every monsoon season. Though one particular year the young Krishna stopped them from offering prayers to Lord Indra who in terrific anger sent a deluge to submerge Gokul. Krishna saved his Gokul by lifting up the Govardhan Mountain and holding it over the people as an umbrella. This day is also observed as Annakoot and prayers are offered in the temples.

The Fifth and final day of Diwali Festival is known by the name of "Bhaiya-Dooj" This day is observed as a symbol of love between sisters and brothers. It is believed that on this day Yamraj -the god of death visited his sister Yami and she put the auspicious tilak on his forehead, they ate, talked and enjoyed together and exchanged special gifts as a token of their love for each other and Yamraj announced that anyone who receives tilak from his sister on this day will be blessed. Since then it has became imperative for the brother to go to his sister's house to celebrate Bhaiya Dooj.