Diwali or Deepawali is India’s one the most important and celebrated festival. The festival of light is the reflection of banishment of darkness around one’s self, both physically and mentally and to bring beauty and light to life. The word “Deep” or “Diya” stand for the earthen lamps that illuminate the light and keep darkness at bay. The word Deepawali is a coinage of two words, “deep” or lamps and “avali” or rows.
Diwali is not only celebrated by millions of Hindus but also Sikhs and Jains. And there are several reasons of celebration.
- Return of Rama to Ayodhya after killing Ravana: According to Hindu epic “The Ramayana”, Lord Rama returned to Ayodhya with Lady Sita and his brother Lakshmana after defeating Asura Ravana in Lanka, on a full moon day in the month of kartik. Lord Rama’s birthplace, Ayodhya, celebrated the day by decorating the city with earthen lamps. Year after year this homecoming of Lord Rama is commemorated on Diwali with lights, fireworks, bursting of crackers and merriment.
- Return of Pandavas after Vanavas and Ajnatavas: The great Hindu epic ‘Mahabharata’ reveals that it was ‘Kartik Amavashya’ (the new moon day of the Hindu Kartika month) when the Pandavas appeared from their 12 years of banishment as a result of their defeat in the hands of the Kauravas at the game of dice called Pasha (gambling). The five Pandava brothers, their mother and their wife Draupadi were honorable, cordial, gentle and congenial in their ways and were loved by all their subjects. To celebrate the joyous occasion of their return to Hastinapura, their subjects, the common people illuminated their kingdom by lighting bright earthen lamps everywhere. And the tradition is maintained to this day.
- The day Lakshmi chose Vishnu as her consort: According to this legend, on this fateful day when Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, was ‘born’ out of the Samudra Manthan (or the great Churning of the Ocean) and was married off to Lord Vishnu on the same night, the wedding was celebrated by the lighting of lamps.
- It is supposed to be the day on which Narakasura was killed: Narakasura, a demon king defeated Indra Deva and kidnapped 16,000 women who were the daughters of gods. Satyabhama, Lord Krishna’s wife livid with anger went to war with Lord Krishna as her charioteer. Narakasura previously had been cursed with death at the hands of a woman, and Satyabhama fulfilled that prophecy by beheading him. This victory is celebrated as Narak Chaturdashi during Diwali.
- The killing of the demons, Shambhu and Nishambhu: Born from the forehead of Durga, Devi Chamunda or Devi Kalika went on to kill Shambhu and Nishambhu, two arusas who had terrorized humans and gods alike. After having killed them, Kali went on a rampage destroying everything and everyone that lay in her path until Shiva threw himself before her. Shocked by the sight, the enraged Goddess stopped in her tracks. The image of her tongue sticking out is Kali in a state of astonishment. Just like Durga, Kali is also worshiped widely in West Bengal.
There is another amazing event that is celebrated a day before Kali Puja. It is called Bhoot Chaturdashi or the 14th Day of Ghosts. It is believed that the barrier of the two worlds, the human world and the spirit world, gets thinner on this day and ghosts can roam around all over. Also, this is the day to pray for all the older and deceased generations to be happy. Most believe that it’s the older generations that protects them from the darkness around. And we light diya to keep the darkness at bay.
- The Harvest Festival: Diwali also falls at the time when Kharif crops are cultivated. A time when rich rice cultivation gives its fruits. India being a agro-economic society, the significance of a rich harvest gives a new meaning to the celebrations.
Sikhs have quite a few reasons to celebrate Diwali. They believe that it is the day on which their third Sikh Guru Amar Das, declared Diwali as the day when all Sikhs would gather to receive the Guru’s blessings. Also another reason is that it was on this day, in the year 1577, that the foundation stone of the Golden Temple, the most magnificent and the most beautiful institution of the Sikhs, was established in Amritsar. Last but not the least, 42 years later, in 1619, the sixth Sikh Guru Hargobind, was liberated on Diwali by Mughal Emperor Jahangir, from Gwalior fort, along with 52 kings.
Jains believe that it is the day on which Mahavira, the twenty-fourth and the last Tirthankara attained the Nirvana.
In fact the importance of this festival is deep rooted in the society and economy. On the day of Diwali, the Indian stock market holds an auspicious event, called the Muhurat. Muhurat is a special one-hour trading session conducted on the propitious occasion of Diwali. The session also marks the beginning of a new year or ‘Samvat’ for Gujaratis and Marwaris – two communities that dominate the stock broking sector in India. It is believed that muhurat trading brings wealth and prosperity throughout the year.
Usually there is a trading session in the evening every year by NSE and BSE to mark the felicitous occasion of Diwali. The broking community holds Laxmi puja and trade during this time. This year it was conducted between 5 pm and 6:40 pm on Wednesday.
Rangoli is an important part of the celebration of Diwali. Rang means colour. The word Rangoli is coined from two words, “Rang” and “Aavali” which means, Row. Just like Deep and avali. Diwali is celebrated across the country, mainly as a festival to welcome goddess Lakshmi. They have a ritual of cleaning their homes, remove all garbage and dirt from the house to welcome the Goddess and decorate the entrance of the house with beautiful rangolis. The rangoli patterns are created using chalks, crushed limestone and rice powder. In different areas of country they have different names like kolam and Aripoma. In West bengal region it is called Alpona which is a bit different than Rangoli. Rangoli uses different colours and it’s just powders on the floor in different shapes while Alpona is white or a little creamy in colour and the colour is mixed with water and drawn on the floor with distinct and intricate patterns.
In Bihar and Bengal region, people draw the footprints of goddess lakshmi on the doorsteps of their homes, while in Andhra Pradesh people draw Rangolis with the 8 petal lotus patterns which is known as Ashtadal Kamal. Correspondingly in Tamilnadu, people are known to draw the 8 pointed star, called the Hridaya Kamal, which can be translated as Lotus of the Heart.
In any case Diwali is a festival to celebrate happiness and Indians have this amazing way of satiating their appetite to enjoy a festival. And for celebration there are lots of different tasty dishes. Usually there are many types of sweet dishes ranging from laddoos to jalebi to soan papdi to rasgulla to gulab jamun. Everything savoury and delicious as beautiful as the festival is.
And the extended version of the belief of the festival of light is the festival of firecrackers. On this day lots and lots of firecrackers are bursted. However this year, the Supreme Court of India has imposed a time-ban on firecracker bursting. People can light all sorts of firecrackers for only 2 hours a day. Due to constant deterioration of quality of air index in Delhi and increasing pollution, this ban was announced. Also the sound shouldn’t be more than 90 decibels in some places. This is a fair enough decision. The old people and the ill, the animals, both pets and strays and children too will be relieved from the pains of unbearable sounds of crackers bursting to and fro.
So now that we know all about about Diwali let us celebrate it to our heart’s content but without hurting others. Let’s illuminate with lights and not sound demons of bursting crackers.
Wish everyone a very Happy Diwali!!!