Since yesterday, India and Indians across the world are celebrating the festival of light — Diwali or Deepavali – the most significant festival in India.
The closest equivalent I can think of is in the US, the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Since the Dussehra festival last month, there have been sales across the land, with people shopping away much to the retailers’ delight.
Diwali is the abbreviation of the Sanskrit word “Deepavali” – Deepa meaning light and Avali, meaning a row signifying the row of lights which form the festival’s main attraction.
It symbolises that age-old culture of the world which teaches us to vanquish ignorance that subdues humanity and to drive away darkness that engulfs the light of knowledge. Diwali, the festival of lights, even today in this modern world, projects the rich and glorious past and teaches us to uphold the true values of life.
Diwali celebrations are spread over five days and all the days except Diwali are named according to their designation in the Hindu lunar calendar.
Dhanatrayodashi or Dhan teras: Dhan means “wealth” and Trayodashi means “13th day”. Thus, as the name implies, this day falls on the 13th day of the second half of the lunar month. It is an auspicious day for shopping of utensils and gold based on the belief that on this day Amrit – the nectar of immortality came out during the churning of the great ocean by the gods and the demons.
Naraka Chaturdashi: Chaturdashi is the fourteenth day on which demon Narakasura was killed by god Krishna – an incaranation of god Vishnu (the preserver of life). It signifies the victory of good over evil and light over darkness. In North India it is called “Chhoti Diwali” – “chhoti” meaning small marked by the lighting of 11 lamps. In south India, this is the actual day of festivities with many waking up well before dawn, having a fragrant oil bath and wearing new clothes and performing special prayers to lord Krishna or Vishnu for liberating the world from evil. After the puja, children burst firecrackers heralding the defeat of the demon. As this is a day of rejoicing, many will have very elaborate breakfasts and lunches and meet family and friends.
Lakshmi Puja: This day marks the most important day of Diwali celebrations in North India. At sunset there is a special worship of Ganesh, the god of wisdom and remover of obstacles, Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, and Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge, and the lighting of 21 oil lamps and one of clarified butter which will burn all night long, followed by a grand dinner with family and friends. Crackers and fireworks last long in to the night signifying the celebration to welcome prosperity and well-being.
Bali Pratipada or Balipadyami: In North India, this day is celebrated as the “new year” by the trading community since Diwali used to traditionally mark the end of the financial year. The homes and offices of friends and family are visited to offer greetings. In the south, this day commemorates the victory of Vishnu in his dwarf form Vamana over demon-king Bali, who was pushed to the nether world and the return of Bali to earth from the nether-world.
Bhaiduj: On this day, brothers visit their sisters to express their love and affection for each other building on the aspect of most Indian festivals — bringing together families. In north India traditionally girls would be married to boys of distant villages. In a time when there were no long distance communications, Bhaiduj ensured the well being of the sister when the brothers would visit along with gifts for the in-laws. This festival is ancient, and pre-dates the festival of ‘Raksha Bandhan’ where the sister visits her home to be pampered by her family and to tie “rakhi” to her brother.
Bangalore Aviation wishes all it’s readers a happy, prosperous, joyous and safe Deepavali.