Tuesday, 5 April 2016

D for Deepawali or Diwali

A to Z challenge 2016
Festivals of India



As already stated in my last post, Oct – Nov (“Ashwin” month of Hindu calendar) marks the festive period for India which entails festivals starting from Navratra to Diwali in most part of the subcontinent. Additionally it extends up to Kartik Purnima in some selected parts.
So today we would talk about Deepawali which falls on 15th day of Kartik month, an Amawasya (no moon night).

Deepawali or Diwali, is the festival of lights symbolising the victory of righteousness and the lifting of spiritual darkness. The word 'Deepawali' literally means rows of diyas or deeps (clay lamps). This is one of the most popular festivals in Hindus. The festival is celebrated with equal zest amongst other religions in the country as well.

Mythological Reference:
Diwali is celebrated by Hindus, Jains, and Sikhs and some Buddhists to mark different historical events, stories or myths but they all symbolise the victory of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, good over evil & hope over despair. On the same night that Hindus celebrate Diwali, Jains celebrate a festival of lights to mark the attainment of moksha by Mahavira,, Sikhs celebrate Bandi Chhor Divas and some Newar Buddhists also celebrate Diwali remembering Ashoka's conversion to Buddhism.


Most commonly it is believed that Lord Rama along with his wife Sita and brother Laksmana, returned from exile of 14 years after defeating Ravana. The day of this victory is celebrated as Vijaydashmi or Dussehra (Will be Detailed separately in V). And his reaching to Ayodhya is celebrated as Deepawali. It’s believed that to honour their return from Lanka and to illuminate their path, villagers lighted Diyas to celebrate the triumph of good over evil.
Furthermore, Deepavali is also linked to the celebration of Lakshmi, who is venerated as the goddess of wealth and prosperity and is the wife of Lord Vishnu. The festival spreads over 5-day and begins on the day Goddess Lakshmi was born from the churning of cosmic ocean of milk by the gods and the demons; while the night of Diwali is the day Lakshmi chose Vishnu as her husband and they were married. Along with Lakshmi, devotees make offerings to Ganesha, who symbolizes ethical beginnings and fearless remover of obstacles; Saraswati, who embodies music, literature and learning and Kubera, who symbolizes book-keeping, treasury and wealth management. 

Diwali Puja

Main Celebration :

The most beautiful of all Indian festivals, Diwali is a celebration of lights. The festival preparations and rituals typically extend over a five-day period, but the main festival night of Diwali coincides with the darkest, new moon night of the Hindu Lunisolar month Kartika. Before Diwali the whole house / office is cleaned, renovated and decorated. Streets are illuminated with rows of lights. Hindus dress up in new clothes or their best outfits and light up diyas inside and outside their homes. Walkways and entrance are decorated with Rangoli (designs of colours on floor). All family members participate in family puja (prayers). Prayer is devoted to Lakshmi (consort of Vishnu), who is the symbol of wealth and prosperity. (In West Bengal, Odissa & NE, this festival is celebrated as Kali Puja, and Kali, Shiva's consort, is worshipped on the occasion of Diwali.) After puja, fireworks follow, then a family feast including mithai (sweets), and an exchange of gifts between family members and close friends.

A typical Road Decoration in Patna that continues till Chhatha

Rangoli Designing by kids

Detailed Description and rituals

Day 1 - Dhanteras

Dhanteras (celebrated in Northern and Western part of India) starts off the five day festival. Starting days before and through Dhanteras, houses and business premises are cleaned, renovated and decorated. Women and children decorate entrances with Rangoli – creative colourful floor designs both inside and in the walkways of their homes or offices. Boys and men get busy with external lighting arrangements and completing all renovation work in progress. For some, the day celebrates the churning of cosmic ocean of milk between the forces of good and forces of evil; this day marks the birthday of Lakshmi – the Goddess of Wealth and Prosperity, and the birthday of Dhanvantari – the God of Health and Healing. On the night of Dhanteras, diyas (lamps) are ritually kept burning all through the nights in honor of Lakshmi and Dhanvantari. 

Utensil Buying on Dhanteras
Dhanteras is also a major shopping day, particularly for gold or silver articles. Merchants, traders and retailers stock up, put articles on sale, and prepare for this day. Lakshmi Puja is performed in the evening. Some people decorate their shops, work place or items symbolizing their source of sustenance and prosperity.
Jewellery buying on Dhanteras 

Day 2 - Naraka Chaturdasi

Narak Chaturdasi is the second day of festivities, and is also called Chhoti Diwali. As per the Hindu literature  the asura (demon) Narakasura was killed on this day by Krishna, Satyabhama and Kali. The day is celebrated by early morning religious rituals and festivities followed on. Special bathing rituals such as a fragrant oil bath are held in some regions, followed by minor pujas. Women decorate their hands with henna designs. Families are also busy preparing homemade sweets for main Diwali.

Day 3 - Lakshmi Puja (Diwali / Deepawali)

The third day is the main festive day. People wear new clothes or their best outfits as the evening approaches. Then diyas are lit, pujas are offered to Lakshmi, and to one or more additional deities depending on the region of India; typically Ganesha, Saraswati, and  Kubera. Lakshmi symbolises wealth and prosperity, and her blessings are invoked for a good year ahead. Lakshmi is believed to roam the earth on Diwali night. Lakshmi & Ganesha earthen idols are purchased for worship on this occasion. On the evening of Diwali, people open their doors and windows to welcome Lakshmi, and place diya lights on their windowsills and balcony ledges to invite her in. On this day, the mothers who work hard all year, are recognized by the family and she is seen to embody a part of Lakshmi, the good fortune and prosperity of the household. Small earthenware lamps (diya) filled with oil are lighted and placed in rows by some Hindus along the parapets of temples and houses. Some set diyas adrift on rivers and streams. Important relationships and friendships are also recognized during the day, by visiting relatives and friends, exchanging gifts and sweets.

Diwali Purchase of Earthen Lamps etc

Candles used as decorative lights in Diwali

After the puja, people go outside and celebrate by lighting up patakhe (fireworks). The children enjoy sparklers and variety of small fireworks, while adults enjoy playing with ground chakra, Vishnu chakra, flowerpots (anaar), sutli bomb, rockets and bigger fireworks. The fireworks signify celebration of Diwali as well a way to chase away evil spirits. After fireworks, people head back to a family feast, conversations and mithai (sweets, desserts).

Enjoying Fire Crackers

Day 4 - Diwali Padva is dedicated to wife–husband relationship.
Day 5 – Bhai Dooj  is dedicated to sister–brother bonding. (Will be Detailed separately in Y)
Dhanteras usually falls eighteen days after Dussehra.

The prayers vary widely by region of India. An example vedic prayer from Brhadaranyaka Upanishad celebrating lights is:
Asato ma sat gamaya | (असतो मा सद्गमय )
Tamaso ma jyotir gamaya | (
तमसो मा ज्योतिर्गमय )
tyor ma amtam gamaya | (मृत्योर्मा अमृतं गमय )
Om shanti shanti shantihi || (
 शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः )
From untruth lead us to Truth.
From darkness lead us to Light.
From death lead us to Immortality.
Om Peace, Peace, Peace.

Aside from India it is observed as an official holiday in Fiji, Guyana, Pakistan, Malaysia, Nepal, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Surinam, and Trinidad & Tobago.

Economic Relevance:

Diwali marks a major shopping period in India. In terms of consumer purchases and economic activity, Diwali is the equivalent of Christmas in the west. It is traditionally a time when households purchase new clothing, home refurbishments, gifts, gold and other large purchases. The festival celebrates Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity, and investment, spending and purchases are considered auspicious. Diwali is a peak buying season for gold and jewellery in India. It is also a major sweets, candy and fireworks buying season. At retail level, about US$800 million (INR 5,000 crores) worth of firecrackers are consumed in India over the Diwali season. 

Aditya Sinha

That’s for today with D. Tomorrow it would be another festival with “E”
            List of Other Festivals : Anant Chaturdashi, Akshay Tritiya , Buddha Purnima, Basant Panchmi, Baisakhi,  Chhatha
For my parallel second Challenge blog with A pls visit : Let the Soul Pour
For other A to Z challenge blogs visit : A to Z Challenge 2016