Hello World! Happy Diwali!!

Diwali the Festival of Light in South Asia

Diwali is one of the most important Hindu festivals celebrated in India and Nepal. In North India, it is celebrated as the day when Rama returned to his kingdom of Ayodhya after killing Ravana and completing his 14 years of exile period. However, in eastern India, especially Bengal, it is observed as the day of Kali Puja, since the Goddess cult is very strong there. This is in fact a 5-days festival associated with the final harvest season and the Hindu festivals end with this 5-days period in the traditional Hindu calendar. Along with Holi, Christmas and EidulFitr, this festival also has the distinction of being celebrated by people of other faiths as well – they light lamps and blow crackers, though of course they don’t take part in worship rituals.

The first day is celebrated as Dhanteras or Dhanvantari Trayodashi. Traditionally associated with the legend of the churning of the ocean by the gods and demons to bring out the nectar from the ocean, it is said that the god Dhanvantari appeared from the ocean carrying the pot of nectar on the 13th lunar day of the waning moon phase of this month. The people celebrate this day by buying utensils made of metals – it is believed that this will bring them prosperity. Hence, utensils shops are overcrowded with customers on this day. This year Diwali is nearing now and I was pleasantly surprised to get a beautifully carved heavy silver bowl from my place of work as a Diwali gift!

The second day ie, 14th day of the waning moon is celebrated as Naraka Chaturdashi. Narakasur was a demon who drove the gods out of the heaven. Krishna’s wife took Krishna to war with him and he was killed in this war. Hence, on this day Vishnu and Lakshmi are worshipped, since Krishna is an incarnation of Vishnu.

The people of Goa have an interesting variation on this. Goa already has a hugely popular tradition of celebrating a carnival before Easter. On the night of Naraka Chaturdashi, they make effigies of Narakasur, modelled on the current designs of characters in children’s cartoons and they celebrate a “Narakasur carnival” by carrying these effigies in the streets of Goa and finally burning the effigies by blowing crackers through them! Only an immensely creative state like Goa can come up with something like this.

The third night in this period is the Diwali on the new moon night, when buildings and streets are lined up with earthen lamps and candles and Ganesh and Lakshmi are worshipped. It is believed that in the night when people go to sleep, Lakshmi the Goddess of wealth makes a round and goes to the houses of people where she sees the lamps lit outside. Blowing various kinds of crackers is part of this night, though in big cities like Delhi it causes a lot of pollution and hence, it is increasingly felt that crackers should be used less and less on Diwali night. In eastern India, eve of Diwali is the occasion for people to show their creativity. They make paper lamps (called kandil, derived from candle) in different designs and hang them from a pole on the rooftops, placing a lamp inside. there is some competition about whose paper lamp looks most creative!

The fourth night is celebrated as Bali Pratipada in honour of the just and righteous demon Bali who defeated the gods. Hence, Vishnu came as Vamana the dwarf, enlarged his size and took away from Bali his universal kingdom by measuring the universe in 3 steps. Bali received the boon from Vishnu that he would be remembered once a year by the people because of his righteous rule. On this night, he returns to accept worship from people. In Kerala, Onam is celebrated in August-September for the same purpose when boat races are held. Because of this, this festival is not of importance in Kerala during Diwali.

The final day of this 5-days period is celebrated as BhratraDwitiya or Bhaiduj. It is said that river Yamuna applied a paste of rice flour and vermillion on her brother Yama’s hands on this day and said that those sisters and brothers who do the same will be absolved of all sins. In eastern India, sisters also ask for the long life of their brothers on this day and brothers give money and gift to their sisters. Thus, there are many legends, traditions and deities associated with this 5-days festival calendar of Hinduism. After this, two more festivals are the Chhath on the 6th day after Diwali when Sun is worshipped and also goddess Shashthi is worshipped for the longevity of children; and Devotthan Ekadashi (i.e., 11th waxing moon phase after Diwali, which is on the new moon night).  This is the end of harvest season when paddy is brought home. Lord Vishnu is supposed to rise on this day from sleep in his abode in the ocean called Vaikunth. In Eastern India, this festival is celebrated by worshiping Vishnu and Lakshmi and offering freshly harvested paddy before them.

Advertisements
Comments
7 Responses to “Hello World! Happy Diwali!!”
  1. Sandstorm says:

    Thanks, I didn’t know Diwali was a 5 days’ festival. Information about Goa carnival is really interesting.

  2. Arpit Maheshwari says:

    Hey,

    I want to use one of the images that’s on the site. The one with lot of diyas. Can you tell me where did u get that image from? Is it a copyrighted image?

    Rgds

  3. Archana says:

    Hi Arpit,
    I have sent you a mail.

  4. Floridawaves says:

    Good article. Very informative. 🙂

  5. meena says:

    good article.thank

  6. Archana says:

    Thanks, Meena and welcome to the blog!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: