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Diwali

Diwali popularly known as the “festival of lights,” is a five day festival which starts on Dhanteras, celebrated on thirteenth lunar day of Krishna paksha (dark fortnight) of the Hindu calendar month Ashwinand ends on Bhaubeej, celebrated on second lunar day of Shukla paksha (bright fortnight) of the Hindu calendar month Kartik. In the Gregorian calendar, Diwali falls between mid-October and mid-November. Diwali is an official holiday in India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Mauritius, Guyana, Trinidad & Tobago, Suriname, Malaysia,Singapore and Fiji.

If the above is rather heavy and difficult to understand!!! then a simplified version is that Diwali is the most important holiday in the Hindu Calendar. Lasting for 5 days this is the best time of the year in Indian culture especially for children as there are so many good things to eat and presents to exchange. Homes are decorated and lit up with oil lamps, lanterns and strings of electric lights which makes everything look alive and pretty. Not only is Diwali being observed by Hindus, but also by Jains, Sikhs and even some Buddhists. Diwali is a very important time for cleaning your house, it is said that the Goddess Laxmi will visit the cleanest houses first. Diwali is called the Festival of Lights but this does not only refer to outward lights that can be seen but also to the ” inner light”, it is a time to shine from within and to be a good, shinning example to others.

The five days of Diwali

Day 1: Dhanteras

Coming from the word “Dhan” meaning “Wealth”, this is considered to be a lucky day to buy precious metals. It is also a day to worship the Goddess Laxmi – Goddess of Wealth.

Day 2: Choti Diwali / Naraka Chaturdashi / Kali Chaudas

This is the day that celebrates good over bad and lightness over darkness. The day of Kali the Goddess of time, change and death. On this day it is usual for people to rise early, even before dawn, and bathe in fragrant oils, wear new clothes and get together with family and friends at breakfast time.

Day 3: Diwali / Lakshmi Puja

All houses must be kept clean and pure. On this day three the Hindu ritual of Lakshmi puja is performed. Goddess Lakshmi is worshipped by those who wish to acquire or to preserve wealth. It is believed that Lakshmi (wealth) goes only to those houses which are clean and where the people are hardworking. She does not visit the places which are unclean/dirty or where the people are lazy. According to tradition people would put small oil lamps outside their homes on Diwali and hope Lakshmi will come to bless them. Also Ganesh as the God of auspicious beginnings and remover of obstacles is being worshiped.

Day 4: Padwa / Bali Pratipada / Govardhan Puja / Annakoot

In North India, this day is celebrated as Govardhan Puja, also called Annakoot, and is celebrated as the day Krishna – an incarnation of god Vishnu – defeated Indra and by the lifting of Govardhana hill to save his kinsmen and cattle from rain and floods. For Annakoot, 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 into the patala. In Maharashtra, it is called 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 calendar, in Gujarat.

Day 5: Bhaiduj (Yama Dwitiya)

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 sisterYami (the river Yamuna). 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 ‘YAMA DWITIYA’. Brothers visit their sisters’ place on this day and usually have a meal there, and also give gifts to their sisters.

Goddess Lakshmi Puja

Diwali marks the end of the harvest season in most of India. Farmers give thanks for the bounty of the year gone by, and pray for a good harvest for the year to come. Traditionally this marked the closing of accounts for businesses dependent on the agrarian cycle, and is the last major celebration before winter. Lakshmi symbolizes wealth and prosperity, and her blessings are invoked for a good year ahead.

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 the big three 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 shares wealth)
    Indra: Opulence (satisfaction due to wealth)
    Gajendra: Carries the wealth
    Saraswati: Knowledge