(Last Updated on : 22/10/2014)
Diwali, Indian Festival
, is one of the grandest festivals celebrated across the world which means 'row of lights'. It is celebrated in the month of October or November with great enthusiasm and zeal. Hindus all over India celebrate Diwali whole heartedly. Lighting up the entire house with earthenware lamps, decorating it, making rangolis outside the porch of the house, shopping for new clothes, bursting crackers, distributing sweets are the spirits tagged to Diwali. To add to the festival, fairs are also held throughout India. According to the Hindu calendar
, it is celebrated in the last days of Ashvina and at the beginning of Kartika, exactly twenty days after Dussehra
Origin of Diwali
There are a few popular legends associated with Diwali and different parts of India have their versions to explain. Some believe that it is celebrated as the marriage ceremony of Goddess Lakshmi
with Lord Vishnu
. In West Bengal
, the festival is dedicated to the worship of Goddess Kali
, the goddess of strength. Myth has it that Lord Krishna
assassinated the demon king Narakasura
and rescued 16,000 women from his captivity; hence Diwali is celebrated as a victory festival. Mahabharata
tells that it was a Kartik Amavashya when the Pandavas
appeared from their 12 years of banishment, as a result of their defeat in the hands of the Kauravas
at the game of dice. The subjects who loved the Pandavas celebrated the day by lighting earthen lamps. According to the epic Ramayana
, it was the new moon day of Kartik when Lord Rama
, Ma Sita
returned to Ayodhya
after vanquishing Ravana
and conquering Lanka. The citizens of Ayodhya decorated the entire city with the earthen lamps and illuminated it like never before. In Jainism
, Diwali or Deepawali is celebrated to mark the great event of Lord Mahavira
attaining the eternal bliss of nirvana
. Diwali is a composite festival, which includes other small festivals as well. Each of these festivals has different legends
, sagas and myths associated with it.
1st Day - Dhanteras
The first day of Diwali is known as Dhanteras (Dhan means "wealth" and Teras means 13th day). According to a legend, a sixteen year old son of King Hima was destined to die by snakebite on the fourth day of his marriage. Thus, on the fourth day, his young wife laid all the ornaments and numerous gold and silver coins in a big heap at the entrance of her husband's room and lighted innumerable lamps all over the place. When Yama
, the god of Death, arrived there in the guise of a Serpent, he was blinded by the dazzle of brilliant lights and he could not enter the Prince's chamber. So, he climbed on top of the heap and sat there the whole night listening to the melodious songs which the young wife was singing to keep his husband awake, and went away quietly in the morning. Hence this day is celebrated as Dhanteras and on this day some precious metal, be it a gold jewellery or utensil, is purchased as a sign of good luck. Lakshmi Puja is also celebrated in the evening and earthen lamps are lit to drive away evil spirits.
2nd Day - Naraka Chaturdashi
Myths say that on this day the demon Naraka was defeated and vanquished by divine Lord Krishna. This day thus symbolizes the victory of Lord Krishna and is celebrated with fireworks and lights. There is another legend which says that Bali
, an unjust king, was pushed into the Patallok (underground) by Lord Vishnu in disguise of Vamana
, the Brahmin
dwarf. King Bali, though being the king of the demons, was generous enough to let himself pushed and thus Lord Vishnu
gave him the lamp of knowledge. He was allowed to return to earth once a year to light millions of lamps to drive away the darkness and ignorance and spread the light of love and wisdom. In West Bengal
it is believed that on this day Goddess Kali killed the wicked demon Raktavija
. In South India, the legends have it that Narasimha, the fourth incarnation of Lord Vishnu
(half man half lion), killed the demon king Hiranyakashipu
with his claws on the threshold of his palace, just before daybreak, hence steering clear of the boundaries of the boon given to the king by Lord Brahma
. Hence the victory of good is celebrated on this day. Narak Chaturdashi is also called, Chhoti Deepawali or Kali Chaudas and is celebrated with lights and fireworks.
3rd Day - Diwali
Diwali is celebrated on the third day of the festival, when the moon completely wanes and total darkness sets in the night sky. This day is also celebrated by worshipping Goddess Lakshmi. During Lakshmi Puja, small footprints are drawn with rice flour and vermilion powder all over the houses. This is a sign of arrival of Goddess Lakshmi, the Goddess of Fortune, Beauty, Prosperity and Wealth. "Lakshmi-Puja" is performed in the evenings by lighting diyas to drive away the evil spirits. "Bhajans" or devotional songs, in praise of Goddess Lakshmi, are sung and "Naivedya" (offering of food) of traditional sweets is offered to the Goddess. As per the legends, Diwali is the day when Rama's coronation was celebrated in Ayodhya after his epic war with Ravana, the demon king of Lanka. Ayodhya and Mithila
, the kingdom of Sita's father, and many other cities bordering these kingdoms were lit up with rows of lamps, glittering in dark nights to welcome home the divine king Rama and his queen Sita after 14 years of exile, ending with an across-the-seas war. The illuminations symbolize the removal of spiritual darkness from the country.
In North India, the festival is held on the final day of the Vikram Calendar. The following day marks the beginning of the North Indian New Year, and is called Annakut. According to Vishnu Bhagavatham, Gods and Demons churned the Milky Ocean to extract "Amrut" from it. During this process, Goddess Lakshmi was born. Attracted by her beauty, both the groups offered their best possessions as their gift. Thus this day is celebrated as Diwali. On this day, people also follow the tradition of gambling. There is a prominent belief that Goddess Parvati
played dice with her husband, Lord Shiva
, and predestined that any person on earth who would gamble on Diwali night will flourish throughout the following year.
4th Day - Padwa
This fourth day of Diwali falls on the first day of Karthik month of the Indian calendar. It is known as Varshapratipada or Pratipad Padwa. Varshapratipada symbolizes the coronation of King Vikramaditya and Vikaram-Samvat
on this Padwa day. Padwa is the beginning of the New Year. As the name suggests, this day is celebrated as the New Year's Day amongst the Hindus. This day is considered as the most auspicious day to start any new venture. This Padwa is also symbolic of love and devotion between wife and husband.
5th Day - Bhai Duj
Bhaiya Duj is known as Tikka in Punjab
, Bhau-Bij' in Maharashtra
, 'Bhai-Phonta' in Bengal and 'Bhai-Teeka' in Nepal. On this day, brothers and sisters meet and express their love and affection for each other. Legend goes that Lord Yamraj, the God of Death, visited his sister Yamuna on this day. When he reached her house, she welcomed him by performing his aarti, applying 'Tilak' on his forehead and by putting a garland around his neck and he gave a boon that if any brother visits his sister on this day he would be blessed with health and wealth. Thus, it has become a tradition that on the day of Bhai-Duj, brothers visit their sisters and offers gifts. Sisters also give gifts to their brothers and wish for their long life, health and prosperity. Another legend states that on this day Lord Krishna, when reached his house, was welcomed by his sister Subadra in a traditional way by performing his 'aarti' and applying a holy 'Tilak' on his forehead. This day gained importance as a celebration of the relationship between a brother and a sister.
Diwali is not just about lights, crackers, sharing sweets and worshipping Goddess Lakshmi, but is also a day for reconciliation. There are social gatherings and people exchange wishes. It signifies the removal of our inner darkness that covers the light of knowledge. It is celebrated throughout India as well as in other countries in a grand way. This is a festival of all irrespective of religious and economic backgrounds.