Diwali, also known as Devali or Deepawali, is an Indian festival of light and colors celebrated in the month of October or November every year. Falling among some of the most auspicious dates of the Hindu calendar, Diwali holds an important place among masses of Indian origin all over the world. Worshiping all Gods, making snacks “pakwan”, large scale buying, gift exchange, gambles etc., Diwali is a combination of several age-old and new ideas that are welcomed by the people from their hearts. Falling on the day of New moon in the Hindu month of Ashwin, Diwali has a rich history and several legends are there which make this festival joyous for all. Let’s find out what and how this festival holds a prime place in any calendar.
Reasons to Celebrate Diwali
Similar to the popularity of the festival and vastness of the Hindu religious beliefs, Diwali has several mythical stories related to it. Some of them are:
1. Return of Lord Ram: After killing Ravana in the epic battle of Ramayana, Lord Ram, along with his wife and brother, headed towards his home town, Ayodhya. The day of his return was on “Krishna Paksha” and it was new moon (Amavasya). So, to welcome the return of their prince from a 14 year old exile, the natives of Ayodhya lit candles and earthen lamps all over the city.
2. Rage of Maa Kali: The eastern states of India celebrate Diwali as Kali Puja. In the ancient times, when the evil started to cause major destruction in lives of people, they prayed to summon Maa Kali. In her anger and rage, Maa Kali destroyed the evil from its very roots but this didn’t calm her. So, she then started cause harm to earth and earthlings. To stop Maa Kali from causing this havoc, Lord Shiva laid himself in her path. To see him lying down right under his feet cooled down the temper of Maa Kali.
3. Krishna and Narakasura: Some parts of the southern and western regions derive their belief from the Krishna-Naraksura fight. Naraksura was demon who had some amazing supernatural powers. With the help of these powers, he started terrorizing people. To stop him from continuing the evil, Lord Krishna comes to the front, defeats and kills Naraksura. As a sign for the victory, he put of the demon’s blood on his face. When he returned to his home, he was given a massaged with scented oil and then given a bath so that the blood can be washed away.
4. Emergence of Goddess Lakshmi: Belief in Goddess Lakshmi emerged from the ocean of milk on this day. Since then she has devoted her life in bringing prosperity and peace among the people of earth.
Another popular story about Goddess Lakshmi is “In the ancient times when kings used to rule, there lived a poor man with his two sons and daughter in law of the younger one. His daughter-in law told to bring anything home after he comes back from work. One day, he couldn’t find anything but a dead snake, so he bought it home and kept it on the roof. On the same day, an eagle took queen’s gold necklace and flew away. The necklace was very precious and queen wanted it back at any price. So, the king announced that whoever brings it back will be given any reward that he wants.
The eagle flew over the poor man’s house and as soon as he saw the dead snake, he dropped the necklace and took away the snake instead. The poor man picked the necklace and gave it to his daughter in law. She went to the king and as a reward asked him that only her house should be illuminated with lights on the day of Diwali and rest the entire city would be black. Her demand was accepted. On the day of Diwali, Goddess Lakshmi felt helpless in the dark and didn’t know where to go. She then saw this house and as soon as she approached there, she was interrogated by the poor man’s daughter in law. After knowing who she was, the woman told Goddess Lakshmi that she could enter the house only as a bride so that she can stay forever. Goddess Lakshmi agreed to the conditions and married the elder son. In this way, with the patience and planning of a poor man and his daughter in-law, prosperity and wealth came to their house, forever.”
Similar to the above stories, there are several myths that are popular about Diwali and this certainly makes the festival unconfined to a singular reason of celebration.
How Diwali is Celebrated
Diwali celebrations are not limited to a day or two. Just after Dusshera, preparations for Diwali start. In total, there are 5 different festivals that fall close to Diwali. These are:
1. Dhanteras: The word “dhan” means wealth and hence this day holds a prime importance for people related to business. Business premises are decorated and mass arrangements of worship are made.
On the day of Dhanteras, gold and silver jewelry are bought at large scales and there are also purchases of vehicles, utensils and all other precious possessions.
2. Chhoti Diwali: Also known as Nakra-Chaturdashi, this is known as the day when Lord Krishna killed Narakasura. This day holds a prime importance in the lives of religiously devoted as several customs are related to this day. Taking bath early in the morning, using scents to dress up, applying turmeric for beauty etc. are some popular activities carried out on this day.
3. Deepawali: This day is the day of Diwali and is celebrated continuously for 24 hours all over the country. Houses are decorated with flowers and rangolis (flower pattern made with colors) are made. Firecrackers are bought and exploded on this day and all the days near it. Crackers symbolize the joy and light of the festival. As this day falls on New Moon, the lighting is done in such a manner that people don’t feel need for the moon all night and just enjoy the festival. Goddess Lakshmi is worshiped at different auspicious timings all over the day. Hindu calendar is strictly followed to take out the timings of the day.
In many regions, cards are played as a custom and money gambles are also regarded as a traditional method to enjoy the day.
4. Post Diwali Events: Padwa and BhaiDooj are the most popular days post Diwali, respectively. On the day of Padwa, people bath the idols of deities and offer them sweets and various foods. The next day is of BhaiDooj when sisters and brothers meet to strengthen the bond of love.
For Hindus, Diwali is the day of auspiciousness. People plan out all year to buy precious stuffs on this day, employees wait for the special bonus that they get. Relatives living far wait endlessly for this time to come so that they can meet. Markets and malls explode with offers on almost all commodities. New clothes, new car, new TV, new house and everything else new has to wait for this festival to come up. Diwali, certainly, can never lose its importance as we proceed to live the modern lives of our times.