DIWALI OR DEEPAVALI
Diwali or Deepavali is popularly known as the Festival of Lights. It is an important 5-day festival in Hindus, Sikhs and the Jains, occurring between mid-October and mid-November. The name Diwali is itself a contraction of the word which translates into row of lamps.
Diwali involves the lighting of small clay lamps (diyas) filled with oil to signify the triumph of good over evil. During Diwali celebrants wear new clothes and share sweets and snacks with near and dear ones. Some Indian business communities begin the financial year on the first day of Diwali hoping for prosperity the following year.
In Hindus, Diwali marks the return of Lord Rama to his kingdom of Ayodhya after defeating (the demon king) Ravana, the ruler of Lanka in the epic Ramayana. It also celebrates the slaying of the demon king Narakasura by Lord Krishna. Both signify the victory of good over evil.
In Jainism, Diwali marks the attainment of moksha by Mahavira in 527 BC. Sikhs, commemorates the return of Guru Har Gobind Ji to Amritsar after freeing 52 Hindu kings imprisoned in Fort Gwalior by Emperor Jahangir; the people lit candles and diyas to celebrate his return. Sikhs also refer to Diwali as Bandi Chhorh Divas, "the day of release of detainees". Diwali is considered a national festival in India and Nepal.
Hindus have several significant events associated with Diwali:
- The return of Sri Ram after 14 years of Vanvas (banishment). To welcome his return, lamps were lit in rows.
- The Killing of Narakasura: Celebrated as Narak Chaturdashi, one day before Diwali. It commemorates the killing of the evil demon Narakasura, who wrecked havoc, by Krishna&prism;s wife Satyabhama during the Dwapara yuga. In another version of the belief, the demon was killed by Krishna or Krishna provokes his wife Satyabhama to kill Narshna, defeating Indra.
- Govardhan Puja is celebrated the day after Diwali which is the day Krishna defeated Indra, the deity of thunder and rain. According to the story, Krishna saw preparations for an annual offering to Lord Indra and asked his father Nanda about it. He debated with the villagers about what their "dharma" truly was. They were farmers, they should do their duty and concentrate on farming and protection of their cattle. He said that all human beings should do their "karma" to the best of their ability and not pray for natural phenomenon. The villagers were convinced by Krishna, and did not proceed with the special puja (prayer). Indra was then angered, and flooded the village. Krishna lifted Mount Govardhan and held to protect the people and cattle from the rain. Indra finally accepted defeat and recognized Krishna as supreme. Although this aspect of Krishna"s life is sometimes ignored it sets up the basis of the "karma" philosophy later detailed in the Bhagavat Gita.
Diwali is celebrated for 5 days according to the lunar Hindu calendar. All the days except Diwali are named according to their designation in the Hindu calendar. The days are:
Day 1 - Vasu Baras : Baras means the 12th day and vasu means cow. On this day the cow and calf are worshiped.
Day 2 - Dhanatrayodashi or Dhan teras : Dhan means wealth and Trayodashi means 13th day. This day falls on the 13th day of the second half of the lunar month. It is considered an auspicious day for buying utensils and gold. This day is regarded as the Jayanti of God Dhanvantri who came out during the churning of the great ocean by the gods and the demons.
Day 3 - Naraka Chaturdashi: Chaturdashi is the 14th day on which the demon Narakasura was killed by Krishna – an incarnation of Vishnu. It signifies the victory of good over evil and light over darkness (Gujarati: Kali Chaudas, Rajasthan : Roop Chaudas). In south India, this is the actual day of festivities. Hindus wake up before dawn, have a fragrant oil bath and dress in new clothes. They light small lamps all around the house and draw elaborate kolams /rangolis outside their homes. They perform a special puja with offerings to Krishna or Vishnu, as he liberated the world from the demon Narakasura on this day. It is believed that taking a bath before sunrise, when the stars are still visible in the sky is equivalent to taking a bath in the holy Ganges. After the puja, children burst firecrackers heralding the defeat of the demon. As this is a day of rejoicing, many will have very elaborate breakfasts and lunches and meet family and friends.
Day 4 - Lakshmi Puja : Lakshmi Puja marks the most important day of Diwali celebrations in North India. Hindu homes worship Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, and Ganesh, the God of auspicious beginnings, and then light lamps in the streets and homes to welcome prosperity and well-being.
Day 5 - Bali Pratipada and Govardhan Puja : In North India, this day is celebrated as Govardhan Puja, also called Annakut, and is celebrated as the day Krishna – an incaranation of god Vishnu – defeated Indra and by the lifting of Govardhana hill to save his kinsmen and cattle from rain and floods. ForAnnakut, large quantities of food are decorated symbolizing the Govardhan hill lifted by Krishna. In Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, it is celebrated as Bali-Pratipada or Bali Padyami. The day commemorates the victory of Vishnu in his dwarf form Vamana over the demon-king Bali, who was pushed to the nether-world, and the return of Bali to earth from the nether-world. In Maharashtra, it is called as Padava or Nava Diwas (new day). Men present gifts to their wives on this day. It is celebrated as the first day of the Vikram Samvat calender, in Gujarat.
Day 6 - Bhaiduj (also Bhayyaduj, Bhaubeej or Bhayitika): on this day, brothers and sisters meet to express love and affection for each other (Gujarati: Bhai Bij, Bengali: Bhai Phota). It is based on a story when Yama, lord of Death, visited his sister Yami. Yami welcomed yama with an Aarti and they had a feast together. Yama gave a gift to Yami while leaving as a token of his appreciation. So, the day is also called "YAM DWITIYA".
There are two legends that associate the worship of Lakshmi on this day. According to the first legend, on this day, Lakshmi emerged from Kshira Sagar, the Ocean of Milk, during the great churning of the oceans, Samudra manthan. The second legend (more popular in western India) relates to the Vamana avatar of Vishnu, the incarnation he assumed to kill the demon king Bali. On this day, Vishnu came back to his abode the Vaikuntha; so those who worship Lakshmi receive the benefit of her benevolent mood, and are blessed with mental, physical and material well-being.
As per spiritual references, on this day "Lakshmi-panchayatan" enters the Universe. Vishnu, Indra, Kubera, Gajendra and Lakshmi are elements of this "panchayatan" (a group of five).
The tasks of these elements are:
Lakshmi: Divine Energy (Shakti) which provides energy to all the above activities.
Vishnu: Happiness (happiness and satisfaction)
Kubera: Wealth (Generosity; one who gives away wealth)
Indra: Opulence (satisfaction due to wealth)
Gajendra: Carries the wealth
Diwali is a festival not just for lights, lamps and firecrackers, but for some mouth-watering delights as well. Each region of India has its own traditional variety of sweets and cuisines made specifically for this festival. It is a way of spreading joy and goodwill among both the givers and the receivers of these delights.
“Mithai” (sweets delicacies) form a significant part of the Lakshmi and Ganesh pooja conducted on Diwali. The Gods are offered different types of Mithai as "prashaad" or "naivedhyam", which are then distributed among family members and friends.
Excellent Sweets/Mithai that are prepared in the house or purchased for exchanging on the festive occasion of Diwali are:
Moti Choor Ladoo: The most famous of all Indian sweets. Round in shape, made of besan and consisting of cardamom, pistaschio, and a touch of saffron.
Jalebi: Another well renowned Indian mithai. Jalebis are made of sugar and besan (gram four).
Kaju katli: A soft diamond shaped sweet made from freshly ground cashews.
Kaju-Pista Rolls: A twist of cashew and pistachio.
Peda: A special mithai recipe preparation from Khoa flour. Agra pedas are delicious.
Burfi : All special occasions warrant this. Quadrangular shaped sweets made of whole milk and sugar, garnished with cardamom and pistachios.
Gulab Jamun: A tasty circular mithai that is known by all. On the top of everyone&prism;s list. Comes in a sugary syrup. It is the favorite choice of many Indians.
Badam Burfi: Square shaped Burfi made from Almonds and topped with cardamom seeds and pistachio nuts.
Ras Malai: Medallions of home-made curd cheese served in a sweetened cream sauce.
Rasgulla: These round sweets hail from Bengal. They are white in color and come with a tasty syrup.
Diwali is by far the most enthusiastically enjoyed festival in India. People of different nationalities, races, religions and backgrounds come together to share their joys generating a feeling of universal brotherhood and inter-religious harmony.