Festival Of Diwali
Diwali is definitely the most popular, auspicious and eagerly awaited festival for Hindus all over the globe. It celebrates the return of Lord Rama and his wife Sita to Ayodhya after defeating the demon king Ravana in 15th century BC and a fourteen year exile. According to mythology, the villagers lit small diyas or lamps to celebrate the return of their Lord Rama to Ayodhya and ever since this custom has been religiously followed by generations to signify the happy period of Diwali. Diwali is the festival of lights! It essentially symbolizes the triumph of good over evil and never-ending hope when in trouble. It’s celebration is signified with beautiful lights shining outside doors and windows of houses, around temples and buildings and any other places of community gatherings.
While the festival preparations begin way in advance, the actual Diwali celebration and rituals extend over a five-day period, but the main festival night of Diwali coincides with the darkest, new moon night of the Hindu Lunar month Kartika in Bikram Sambat calendar. In the Gregorian calendar, Diwali night falls between mid-October and mid-November. It follows about twenty days after Dussehra and signals the arrival of winter. It brings about a feeling of joy, love, sharing and a heightened sense of spirituality. And it is definitely a festival to be celebrated with your loved ones and extended family at home.
“Why only family and home?’…you may say! Well, the very essence of Diwali begins right from the process of spring-cleaning and decorating your home with lights and rangoli, together as family members. The fun of helping or lovingly interfering with the traditional sweet making process by the women at home cannot be experienced when on your own….far away. The freshness of the new or recently laundered upholstery and linen, the tantalizing smells of home-made Diwali savouries and sweets and the infectious spirit of happiness, sharing and even praying together can only be enhanced when Diwali is celebrated at home with your loved ones. Moreover, it is considered extremely inauspicious to lock up your main family home and go away for Diwali. The family needs to create a vibrant and welcoming atmosphere at home for Goddess Laxmi to bless them with happiness and prosperity.
In the days preceding Diwali, cities present a bright and colourful sight. Sweets, gift and toy shops are tastefully decorated to attract potential customers. The markets and-streets are overcrowded and delightfully lit with all types of lanterns and lights to sell. People buy gifts and sweets for their own families as well as for their friends and relatives. New clothes and finery is bought for everyone in the family. A few days before Diwali, houses, buildings, shops and temples are thoroughly cleaned and decorated. At night, buildings come to life with brightly lit electric bulbs, fairy lights, earthen lamps and different shaped beautiful paper lamps. The city presents a bright and colourful sight. Villages, though much more muted and simple in their decorations, look equally warm, joyous and inviting.
The main Diwali celebrations are spread across a period of five days with each day having its own special significance and traditional rituals that are followed :
The celebrations commence with ‘Dhanteras’, the auspicious day on which people buy new utensils, silver ware or gold. New investments are made or new businesses are started with the belief that prosperity will follow from this day on. It is believed that some form of precious metal bought on this auspicious day is a sign of good luck and prosperity. Dhanteras usually falls eighteen days after Dussehra.
Choti Diwali follows next, when people start decorating their houses with lights and lamps, create design patterns called rangoli on the floor using colored powders or sand and hold get-togethers.
The third day is celebrated as Badi Diwali, the main day of the festival, which will fall on 19th October 2017 this year. On this day, each family performs the auspicious Laxmi puja at home, followed by mouth-watering feasts and a small firework display. People believe that on this day, Goddess Laxmi enters only those houses which are clean, neat and tidy. People pray for their own health, wealth and prosperity. They light up their houses so that Goddess Laxmi may find no difficulty in finding her way in and shower her blessings upon them. It is a precious and joyful time to spend with family and friends at home.
The day after Diwali is celebrated as Govardhan Puja. It is the first day of the New Year when friends and relatives visit each other’s houses with sweets, gifts and best wishes for the season.
And finally the five-day celebration comes to an end with Bhai Dooj where siblings pray for each other’s well-being and prosperity. Sisters apply tilak on their brother’s forehead and enjoy a sumptuous meal together. These traditional rituals and ceremonies followed amongst family members at home, only encourage a feeling of closeness and uphold family values and traditions for years to come !
So, let’s make our way home to celebrate this Diwali with our beloved family members.
As advised by Swami Chidanand Saraswati “Let us clean out our minds and hearts, making a true “fresh start.” Let us pray to Maha Lakshmi to bestow the divine gifts of faith, purity and devotion upon us. With those, we will always be always rich, always prosperous, and always fulfilled. Let us celebrate Diwali this year as a true “holy day,” not only as another frivolous “holiday.”
Picture Credit : Ashitha Nagesh – Metro, National Geographic Kids