Diwali—Deepavali—The Five Days of Celebration

diwaliDiwali is the grandest of all Hindu festivals that is celebrated by Indians all over the world. It occurs on the day of the new moon or Amaavasya in the month of Kataka, Kaartik or Aypasi (October/November).

The Festival of Lights is called ‘Diwali’, Dipavali and Deepavali. The word is derived from th

mahalakshmi-2rLakshmi is represented with special, meaningful  symbols that represent the final aim of perfection:

Her four arms represent Dharma (Purity),  Artha (Prosperity), Kama (Perfection) and Mukti (Freedom from rebirth). Health, wealth and happiness, virtue and eternal bliss are inclusive.

Goddess Lakshmi is shown sitting or standing on a hundred pedalled lotus that symbolises total purity and at the same time detachment. The hundred petal blooming lotus in her hand shows a stage of complete development and the floating flowers on the ocean of milk represent purity, peace and prosperity.

A picture of the Goddess shows gold coins eternally flowing from her left hand that is symbolic of unending material prosperity.

Elephants showering Lakshmi with milk and water from golden vessels are part of her iconography. The four elephants represent the four directions and the animals signify wisdom and faithfulness. Her open palm in the abhaya mudra blesses and assures devotees of safety and fearlessness.

The lamps lit on the moonless day of Diwali in homes welcomes Goddess Lakshmi into homes and hopes that she blesses people with her bounty. Businesses open their new accounts on Diwali, a day that is considered New Year. So Lakshmi Puja is performed and people pray for her benign blessings so as to have a profitable year and the new books are inscribed with her auspicious signs of the Aum and Swastika.

India was a prosperous country because with the blessings of the divine it produced enormous real wealth. There was no accumulation and hoarding of paper money that was not representative of real wealth. Food, services and trade in goods sustained the country’s predominant position in the world. Gradually the concept of Lakshmikataksham degenerated to worship of mere cash. The time has come to return to the creating of real wealth and prosperity across the board for all. May Goddess Lakshmi dispel the darkness created by false idols of corruption, avarice and counterfeit notes.

Five Days Of Diwali

Fresh flowers, exchange of gifts, new clothes, meeting new and old friends and offerings of traditional sweets sum up a typical celebration of Diwali. Diwali is one festival which is celebrated with utmost excitement not only in India but also in other parts of the world. There are five days of Diwali that are celebrated with great fervour. Uniting all members of the community, young and old, rich or poor, the lighting of the lamps on Diwali represents a way of paying obeisance to God for attainment of health, wealth, knowledge, peace and valued fame.

People give expressions to their happiness by lighting earthen Diwali diyas and Diwali lamps and decorating the houses to welcome Lakshmi- the Goddess of wealth and prosperity, bursting fire crackers and inviting the near and dear ones to their households for partaking in the luxurious feast of Diwali sweets. It is also marked as the beginning of the Hindu New Year and as a brand new beginning for all.

Diwali is celebrated for five days, each day having its own significance, rituals and myths which are moored to the Puranas, the sacred story chronicles of Hindus. There have been so many important legends associated with the occasion of Diwali that five days have been accredited for the celebration of Diwali in India with each day holding importance of its own..

  • The First day is called Dhanteras or Dhantryaodashi and it falls on the thirteenth day of the month of Ashwin. The word ‘Dhan’ signifies wealth and hence this day holds utmost importance for the business houses and for the rich people’s community. Legends say that according to his horoscope, the sixteen-year-old son of King Hima was doomed to die on the fourth day after his marriage by snakebite. Thus on the fourth day of his marriage his much worried young bride lighted innumerable lamps all over the place and laid all kinds of ornaments and lots of gold and silver coins in a big heap at the entrance of her husband’s boudoir and went on telling stories and singing songs through the night. When Yam-the god of death arrived there in the guise of a serpent the dazzle of those brilliant lights blinded his eyes and he could not enter the prince’s chamber. So he climbed the heap of the ornaments and coins and sat their whole night listening to the melodious songs. In the morning He went away quietly. Thus the wife saved her husband and since then this day of Dhanteras came to be known as the day of “Yamadeepdaan”.

  • The Second day is called Naraka-Chaturdashi or Chhoti Diwali and is celebrated with the same fervour and enthusiasm as the main day of Diwali. The legend related to this day is about King Bali of the nether world whose mighty power had become a threat to the gods. In order to curb his powers Lord Vishnu in the guise of a small boy visited him and begged him to give him only that much land which he could cover with his three steps. Known for his philanthropy King Bali proudly granted him his wish. So with his first step Lord Vishnu covered the entire heaven and with the second step the earth and asked Bali where to keep his third step. Bali offered his head and putting his foot on his head Vishnu pushed him down to the underworld. Though for his generosity Lord Vishnu allowed him to return to earth once a year to light millions of lamps to dispel the darkness and ignorance and spread the radiance of love and wisdom.

    In the south Naraka-Chathurdashi is actually Deepavali. Narakasura ruled the kingdom of Pradyoshapuram. Puranas have it that Naraka, son of Bhudevi, acquired immense power from a blessing given by Lord Brahma after a severe penance. The demon tortured the people and kidnapped the women to be imprisoned in his palace with his invincible might. Narakasura also threw out all the devataas from Indralok and snatched the precious earring from the ear of Aditi (the mother of all devtaas). Indra felt humiliated and sought the help of Lord Krishna.

Naraka had a boon that he would face death only at the hands of his mother Bhudevi. So, Krishna asked his wife Sathyabhama, the reincarnation of Bhudevi, to be his charioteer in the battle with Naraka. During the battle, Krishna purposely feigned unconsciousness after being hit by an arrow shot by Naraka. Sathyabhama took the bow and aimed an arrow at Naraka and killed him instantly. Bhudevi, mother of the slain demon Naraka, declared that his death should not be mourned and that day be celebrated as a festival. It is said Lord Krishna had an oil bath to rid himself off the blood spattered on his body when Naraka was killed.

  • The Third day of the festival of Diwali is the most important day when Lakshmi-Puja is performed. This day is also known by the name of ‘Chopada-Puja’. The day of Lakshmi-Puja falls on the dark night of Amavasya, the New Moon. It is believed that on this auspicious day Lord Krishna discarded his body. One more interesting story related to this day is of a small boy called Nichiketa who believed that Yama, the god of Death was as black as the dark night of Amavasya. However, when Nachiketa met Yama in person, he was puzzled to see Yama’s calm countenance and dignified stature. Yama explained to Nichiketa that on Amavasya, people will pass through the darkness of death and then only see the light of highest wisdom. Then alone can the soul escape from the bondage of the mortal frame to mingle with the Supreme Power. It was then that Nichiketa realized the importance of worldly life and significance of death.

The Fourth day is called Padwa or Varsha Pratipada that marks the coronation of King Vikramaditya and the starting of the Vikaram-Samvat. Govardhan-Puja is also performed in the North on this day. According to the Vishnu-Puranam, the people of Gokul used to celebrate a festival in honour of Lord Indra and worshipped him after the end of the monsoon season. One year, the young Krishna stopped them from offering prayers to Lord Indra saying that he was not responsible for the bounty. Indra was enraged and sent a deluge to submerge Gokul. Krishna saved his Gokul by lifting up the Govardhan Mountain with one finger and he held it over his people like an umbrella. This day is also observed as Annakoot and prayers are offered in the temples.

The Fifth and final day of Diwali Festival is known by the name of ‘Bhaiya-Dooj’. This day is observed as a symbol of love between sisters and brothers. It is believed that on this day Yamaraj -the god of death visited his sister Yami and she put the auspicious tilak (red mark) on his forehead. The siblings ate, talked and enjoyed their time together. They exchanged special gifts as a token of their love for each other and Yamaraj announced that anyone who gets a tilak from his sister on this day will be blessed. Since then it has became the practice for a brother to go to his sister’s house to celebrate Bhaiya Dooj.

The festival of Diwali also symbolizes the victory of good over evil as on this very day Lord Rama returned to Ayodhya after killing demon Ravana. The return of Lord Ram came to be celebrated as the festival of Diwali and an important part of these celebrations is the tradition of bursting fireworks.

Let us celebrate Diwali with the understanding that wealth and prosperity is not necessarily money. It is well-being, paying respects to elders, exchanging and sharing the blessings of Goddess Lakshmi with our family, friends and all those people with lesser resources and who are in need of help, hope and happiness.

About padmum

You could call me Dame Quixote! I tilt at windmills. I have an opinion on most matters. What I don't have, my husband Raju has in plenty. Writer and story teller, columnist and contributer of articles, blogs, poems, travelogues and essays to Chennai newspapers, national magazines and websites, I review and edit books for publishers and have specialized as a Culinary Editor and contributed content, edited and collaborated on Cookbooks. My other major interest used to be acting on Tamil and English stage, Indian cinema and TV. I am a wordsmith, a voracious reader, crossword buff and write about India's heritage, culture and traditions. I am interested in Vedanta nowadays. I am now an Armchair traveller/opinionator/busybody!
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