The Grand Festival Of Illumination
The festival of lights Deepawali or Diwali in short is the most important festival of Hindus in India. It is also observed by Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists and anyone who wants to celebrate it. The fervor and enthusiasm for the festival is visible all across the country. People are most excited about this festival and revel in the festivities like no other festival. Many other countries like Fiji, Guyana, Pakistan, Malaysia, Mauritius, Myanmar, Nepal, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago also celebrate the festival. Indians living overseas also observe the festival with pomp and gaiety in their communities. The festival gets its name from the word ‘Deepak’ or ‘Diya’ which means an oil lamp in Hindi language and ‘Avali’ means a row or a series. The festival falls on the day of Kartika Amavasya or new moon or no moon night of the Kartik month of the Hindu Calendar.
What Does History Say About The Festival
In Hindu mythology it is believed that when Lord Ram, his wife Sita, and brother Lakshman returned to their kingdom of Ayodhya after 14 years in exile and after Ram killed the demon King Ravana, the people of Ayodhya lit earthen oil lamps and burst crackers to welcome them. The event began to be celebrated every year to mark the return of Lord Ram and the victory of good over evil. Another reason for celebrating Diwali is to mark the marriage of the Goddess of wealth Lakshmi with the God of the world Lord Vishnu on this day. Along with Lord Ram, Sita and Lakshman, the Elephant headed God Ganesha who is considered to be the remover of all obstacles and bring in auspiciousness and Goddess Lakshmi who brings in health, wealth and prosperity, are also worshipped on this day. In the state of West Bengal people dedicate the festival to the worship of Goddess Kali, the Goddess of strength. Diwali was also celebrated as the harvest festival because after the end of the cropping season a good harvest brought prosperity and happiness. Even today in many parts of rural India villagers celebrate it as the harvest festival. It is an ancient festival that has been mentioned in Sanskrit scriptures of Skanda Purana and Padma Purana. Earthen lamps have been mentioned in the Skanda Purana as symbolic of the Sun, the provider of energy and light that supports life on Earth.
The Mood Around Diwali Celebration
The preparations for Diwali begin a month in advance with people getting their houses painted and renovated to welcome Goddess Lakshmi on Diwali night. People clean every corner of their house and offices and dispose of all items that are useless or in bad shape. On the day of Diwali new drapes, table cloths, bedsheets, utensils are used to give colour to the festive occasion. The belief is that Goddess Lakshmi visits the house that she finds the most clean and decorated on Diwali night and blesses the house with wealth and prosperity.
Small stalls and kiosks crop up throughout the cities to sell goods related to Diwali. The markets are full with the idols and posters of Goddess Lakshmi, Lord Ganesh, Lord Ram and many other Gods and Goddesses. Decorative items made of clay, plaster of Paris, earthen lamps, designer and simple ones, strings of fairy lights in all kinds of shapes and sizes, LED lights, 3-D lights. Kandils or paper lanterns and candles of all types and sizes like wax candles, gel candles, floating candles can be seen all around. Over the years candles and fairy lights have taken over the earthen lamps but the true spirit of the festival lies in earthen lamps. The practice of using diyas is associated with removing the foul smell and lighting up every corner of the house. And yes! A huge range of fire crackers are sold on this festival. Fireworks are an inseparable part of Diwali festivities. The concerns about air and noise pollution have though toned down the use of crackers but they continue to be used to get the feel of the festival.
How Do People Observe The Festival
Shopping is an integral part of Diwali festival and begins with Dhanteras, which is observed on the 13th day of the dark fortnight in the month of Kartik. Dhanteras is the first day of Diwali festivities. The word ‘Dhan’ literally means wealth and ‘Tera’ stands for 13. Dhanteras is observed two days before Diwali on which it is considered auspicious to purchase utensils, gold and silver as it brings prosperity in the family. Goddess Lakshmi and God Kuber are worshipped on this day. People also buy gifts for their family members and relatives ahead of Diwali. According to a legend it was predicted that King Hima’s 16 year old son would die on the fourth day of his marriage because of a snake-bite. When his wife came to know of it she did not allow him to sleep that night. She got together all her ornaments several gold and silver coins and placed them in a heap at the entrance of their bedroom and lit several lamps all over the room. To prevent her husband from falling asleep she narrated stories and sang songs. The next day when the god of death Yama arrived at the prince’s room in the guise of a snake, he was dazzled and blinded by the brilliance of the lamps and the jewelry. Yama found it difficult to enter the room and so sat on the heap of gold coins and listened to stories and songs the entire night. He quietly went away in the morning. In this way, with her cleverness the young prince’s wife was able to save her husband’s life and the day came to be celebrated as Dhanteras.
The second day of Deepawali is celebrated as Choti Diwali or Narak Chaturdashi. It is observed to commemorate the victory of Lord Krishna over the demon Narakasura. The Hindu mythology says that Narakasur, the son of Mother Earth, becomes an evil asur and forcibly brings many kingdoms under his rule and also begins to rule Heaven and Earth. Lord Indra requests Lord Vishnu to stop Narakasur’s activities. Lord Vishnu then assures indra that in his incarnation as Krishna he will overpower Narakasur. Krishna attacks Narakasur along with his wife Satyabhama and beheads him. It is believed that Narakasur had a boon from Lord Brahma that only a woman will take his life. So, in the battle it is Satyabhama who beheads him, while Lord Krishna is her Saarthi or guide. An unbaked earthen lamp along with a few baked lamps is lit on this day.
On the day of Diwali festival people clean up their houses put bandhanwar or door hangings and make Rangoli, a design made on the floor with coloured powder, at their entrance and perform puja in the evening. People buy special food items, sweets and fruits to be offered to Goddess Lakshmi, God Ganesh and God Kuber during worship in the evening. Goddess Lakshmi and God Kuber are worshipped together to increase the benefits of offering these prayers. Aartis (devotional hymns) are sung in praise of the Gods to get their blessings.
After the prayers are said, earthen lamps are lit, prasad is eaten and along with it children and adults alike light fire crackers and rejoice on the occasion. Newly married couples are given gifts on this day because of the belief that Goddess Lakshmi got married on this day and also because there is a reference in seventh century Sanskrit play that King Harsha mentions Deepapratipadutsava as a day when newly married couples are presented with gifts. The custom of applying Kajal or kohl is also popular on Diwali. This is also the day when businessmen worship their account books and begin a new financial year with fresh account books. Sharing is an important aspect of the Diwali festival. Revelers put on new clothes and visit homes of their friends and relatives to share delectable sweets and dry fruits, burst crackers and exchange gifts. Many families unite in an open space, combine their crackers and burn them together. A host of gifts and a good range of sweets, dry fruits and Diwali celebration items like puja thalis (celebration plates), idols are available on the website of awesomeji.com. Most people reserve their purchases of electronic goods, vehicles and gadgets for Diwali to add to their celebration and also because that’s the time when all companies are offering products at discounted prices. Massive sales are announced both by online and offline retailers and one can buy or gift products online too. In many families the custom of gambling on the night of Diwali is also followed.
On the third day of Diwali festivities Govardhan Puja which is also called Annakoot Puja or Padwa is celebrated mostly across northern India. On this day the belief is that Lord Krishna lifted the Govardhan mountain on his little finger to save his devotees from torrential rainfall. The Hindu scripture ‘Vishnu Purana’ says that in the village of Braj a small hillock was situated called Govardhan. Lord Krishna asked the people of of Gokul to worship the Govardhan to receive rain. The Lord said that the mountain was responsible for bringing rain and hence it should be worshipped instead of Lord Indra. When people started worshipping the mountain, it infuriated Indra so much that he retaliated by showering devastating rains upon Gokul. To save people’s lives Lord Krishna lifted the Govardhan mountain and asked people to take shelter under it until the rains subside. To symbolize this people make a replica of Govardhan Mountain with cow dung and offer prayers to it. Prayers are also offered to Lord Krishna. Delicacies are prepared at home and offered to the Gods. Many people also worship pens and arms on this day. The states of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Mathura, Vrindavan and Bihar observe Annakoot Pooja with immense enthusiasm.
The festival of Bhai Dooj marks the culmination of the five-day Diwali festival. This is also called as Yama Dwitiya. It is akin to the festival of Rakshabandhan. This is the day when sisters invite their brothers to their home and perform Aarti by lighting an oil lamp and applying Tikka on his forehead and praying for his prosperous and healthy life. The brothers in turn express their love for their sisters by giving them gifts and pledging their support to them. These days one can buy Bhai Dooj gifts online or order for their sister online if they are unable to meet their sister. The delivery is free and a good array of products like chocolates, sweets, flowers, dry fruits, candles, mugs photo frames decorative items are available to choose from. Websites like awesomeji.com offer same day delivery also. If one is located overseas in countries like Canada, the U.S, the U.K, U.A.E, Australia one can order on sites like awesomeji.com, which also have the provision of midnight delivery. Not only that; one can send gifts to their sisters residing abroad as well from India.
Online retail has made availing products and gifting items to people close to their heart very easy. Festivals like Diwali when a person is busy with too many things, online shopping saves a lot of time.