Diwali

The festival Diwali or Dipawali is the biggest and the brightest among all Hindu festivals. It is the festival of lights and brightness. It is celebrated with great enthusiasm not only in India but also all over the world.

Name of the festival

The title of the festival has two words, deep (light) and avali (a row) which means a row of lights.  Mainly the festival is celebrated by lighting lamps everywhere, hence the festival is known as the Dipawali.

Dipawali is referred to by various names in various literatures. Vastyayana Kamasutra gives word Yaksharatri; on the other hand Varaha Purana gives name of the festival as Yakshapuja. Kubera the god of wealth is worshiped during Dipawali. Kubera is the lord of Yakshas hence above names may be apt for Dipawali. Dipapratipadutsava name is given by the Shriharsha in his Nagananda drama. Nilamata Purana refers this festival as Dipamala festival.

The Significance of Light

The title of the festival means ‘festival of light’; light has so much significance in the celebration. During Dipawali homes, stores, sidewalks and other public places are decorated with small clay oil lamps called diyas. Fire crackers and big lamps called Akashadiwas are lit during the festival.

In the scriptures, it is said,  lighting Akashdiwa confers prosperity. It is described as the ritual of the Dipawali festival. Pre decided place in open courtyard should be prepared with the coating of cow-dung. Then a high pole should be erected at the center of the place. An octagonal lamp should be hung on that pole. Again in each angle of the lamp eight lamps should be lighted for eight entities namely Dharma, Hara, Bhuti, Damodara, Dharmaraja, Prajapati, Pitara, Preta. This lamp should be lighted by using sesame oil. Following verse should be recited in the honor of the lamp,

Damodaraya nabhasi tulayam lolaya

saha pradipam te prayachchami namonantaya vedhase

Lamp is considered as the symbol of knowledge. The illumination of homes with lights is an expression of attainment of health, wealth, knowledge, peace and prosperity.

Why it is celebrated

It is considered that the festival of Dipawali is originated from sacrifices of Vedic Aryans. It is a combination of three sacrifices namely, Parvana, Ashwayuji and Agrahayani. Among the sacrifices, Parvana sacrifice was for the ancestors,Ashwayuji was for Indra and Sita, agricultural goddess and Agrahayani for the end of the year. Hence it can be derived that the festival of Dipawali is also celebrated for the above three reasons.

 

Legends of the festival

There are any number of legends for this festival which give stories related to all the rituals of Dipawali.

Rama returned to Ayodhya along with Sita and Lakshman from his fourteen year long exile by killing Ravana. Hence the delighted subjects of Ayodhya decorated the city by lighting lamps

Some people believe it to be the celebration of the marriage of Lakshmi with Lord Vishnu.

Two historical legends are also given as the reason for celebrating the Dipawali festival. Rejoicing during the festival of Dipawali were the subjects of King Ashoks for his political achievements. The festival of lights was also observed on the Rajyabhisheka of king Chandragupta Vikramaditya which began to be known as Dipawali after that.

 

When it is celebrated

Dipawali is celebrated in the sandhi (fusion) period of the months of Ashwin and Kartika. It is celebrated from the 13th day of the dark half of Ashwin month to the 1st day of the bright half of the Kartika month. It is a four-day celebration. Each day has its own significance and legend. The previous and the next day of these four days are also celebrated as festivals but those are not part of Dipawali.

 

 

 

 

 

Serial No.

name of the day

When it is celebrated

1

Vasubarasa

Ashwin Vadya Dwadashi

12th  day of the second half of the Ashwin month

2

Dhanatrayodashi

Ashwin Vadya Trayodashi

13th  day of the second half of the Ashwin month

3

Narakachaturdashi

Ashwin Vadya Chaturdashi

14th  day of the second half of the Ashwin month

4

Dipawali or Lakshmi puja

Ashwin Amavatsya

No moon day of Ashwin

5

Bali Pratipada

Kartika Shukla Pratipada

1st day of the first half of the Kartika month

6

Yamadwitiya

Kartika Shukla Dwitiya

2nd day of the first half of the Kartika month

According to lunar calendar it comes in the month of October and November.

Each day of Dipawali has its own legend and reason to celebrate it. All the simple rituals of Dipawali have significance.

Govatsa Dwadashi

Go and vatsa means cow and calf in Sanskrit. Dwadashi means the 12th day of the month. This festival is celebrated on the 12th day of the second half of the Ashwin month. Cow and calf are worshiped on the evening of this day. If cow and calf are not available then people draw a picture of cow and calf. The day is also known as Vasu Baras.

There is a legend related to Vasubaras. An old woman asked her daughter in law to cook dinner. Unknowingly she killed cattle at home. The old woman felt very sad when she came to know about this. Then with devotion she called those cattle and they came back alive due to her devotion. Thereafter, the tradition of worshipping cattle began.

Dhanatrayodashi

This festival is also known as Dhanaterasa. Dhana in the title is wealth and trayodashi or terasa means 13th day. This festival is celebrated on the 13th day of the second half of the Ashwin month. On this evening a lamp should be lit for Yama, the god of death. People should worship gold, wealth, jewelry along with the deities who bestow prosperity. Hence Lakshmi, Vishnu and Kubera are worshiped on this day.

Legend states that, once Yama asked his minions, “you don’t feel sad while taking the Prana from human body?” They replied, “Destiny had decided the death of the son of King Hemaraja on the fourth day of his marriage. We became so sad seeing the sorrow of people when we went to take his life. We followed our duty as we did not have an option. But lord please find out the remedy for this.” Hearing itYama said, today onwards one should observe the Dhanatrayodashi festival and donate lamp to avoid untimely death.

This day is also regarded as the Jayanti (Birth Anniversary) of God Dhanvantari. He is the Physician of Gods who came out during Samudra manthan, the churning of the great ocean by the gods and the demons. Hence the day is also known as Dhanvantari terasa.

Naraka Chaturdashi

It is celebrated on the 14th day of the second half of the Ashwin month. This was the day on which the demon Narakasura was killed by Krishna. Narakasura was the king of Pragjyotishyapura who obtained Vaishnavastra from Bhudevi. He imprisoned 16000 girls. He also had stolen the iravata elephant and ucchaishrava horse of Indra. Hence Krishna killed Narakasura with the help of his wife Satyabhama. Before death Narakasura asked a boon as, from that day onwards on the day of Naraka chaturdashi who will perform spiritual bath before sunrise will not get suffering of hell.

At some places the replica of the Narakarusa is burnt in the morning of the festival as a symbol of victory of good over bad.

Hence it is advised to take a spiritual bath before sunrise on this day. Feast for brahmana, donation of lamp are also advised to be performed on this day.

Lakshmi Puja

Goddess Lakshmi is worshipped on the no moon day of Dipawali. It is said that Vamana, fifth incarnation of Lord Vishnu released Lakshmi and other gods from the prison of the Bali. Lakshmi along with Kubera who bestow wealth are worshipped on this day by chanting the following verses,

Namaste sarvadevanam varadasi hareh priya

ya gatistvatprapannanam sa me syattava darshanat

(O Laksmi you are prosperity giver to all gods and beloved of Vishnu. I should obtained the exalted status of the people who worship you. )

Dhanadaya namstubhyam nidhipadmadhipaya cha

bhavantu tvatprasadena dhanadhanyadi sampadah

(O Kubera who is the god of treasures and lotus salutations to you. I should obtain wealth and food by your mercy.)

People welcome Lakshmi being awake at night and remove Alakshmi, the goddess of poverty.

Bali Pratipada

Bali Pratipada is celebrated on the 1st day of the first half of the Kartika month. It is celebrated in honor of king Bali. On the day Bali is worshipped with his image by reciting following verse,

(Bhavishya P. 140.54)
Baliraja namastubhyam virochanasuta prabho

bhavishyendrasurarate pujeya pratigruhyatam

(O the son of Virochana, the mighty king Bali, salutations to you. You are the future king and the enemy of demons hence you accept this worship.)

King Bali was a mighty emperor. He imprisoned all the gods and goddesses. Hence Vishnu came to the sacrificial place of Bali in the form of Yachaka. Vishnu asked for three paces of land as donation. As donation is part of sacrifice Bali agreed to give that. Vishnu acquired earth and heaven. Then for the third pace, he kept his foot on the head of Bali and sent him to the nether world. All these happened during the three days of Dipawali. Hence before death, Bali asked for a boon as, the one who will donate lamp will not suffer through the sorrow of death and will get prosperity.

In North India, this day is celebrated as Govardhan Puja which is also known as Annakoot.  On this day, Krishna defeated Indra by lifting the Govardhana hill to save his kinsmen and cattle from rain and floods. A replica of Govardhana hill is made of cow-dung and worshipped. But if it is made for Annakoot, large quantities of food are decorated symbolizing the Govardhan in the shape of hill.

It is also celebrated as the first day of the Vikram Samvat calendar, in Gujarat. Hence all Gujaratis observe this day as the new year celebration.

Yama Dwitiya

It is celebrated on the second day of first half of the month Kartika. On this day, brothers and sisters meet to express love and affection for each other. Sister worships brother and pray to god for his long life.

The legend of festival says, Yama the lord of Death, visited his sister Yami on this day. Brothers visit their sisters’ place on this day and usually have a meal there, and also give gifts to their sisters with blessings.

The Tradition of Gambling

The tradition of gambling on Dipawali also has a legend behind it. Game of Gambling was created by lord Shiva and he taught that to his wife. It is believed that on the day of Dipawali, Goddess Parvati played dice with her husband and won for the first time. Hence she decreed that whosoever gambled on Dipawali night, they would get prosperity throughout the year.

Other related celebrations

Swami Dayanand Saraswati, the founder of Arya Samaj died on Kartik Amawasya, new moon day of Kartik, on 30 October 1883. Followers of Arya Samaj celebrate Rishi Nirvanotsav as his Death Anniversary on this Day.

Dipawali has a very special significance in Jain religion. Lord Mahavira, the last Jain Tirthankara attained eternal bliss of Nirvana on Kartika Chaturdashi at Pavapuri on the new moon day of Dipawali.

Sikh celebrates this festival as Chhorh Divis. The sixth guru of Sikh, Guru Hargobind Ji, released 52 Hindi kings out of prison. The festival is celebrated in honour of this incident.

How it is celebrated allover India

Festival of Dipawali is celebrated with great zest and zeal allover India. All the rituals of Dipawali are practiced with some variations in every place of India.

In Gujarat, Dipawali begins on the 12th day of second half of the Ashwin.  Commonly it is known as Vasubarasa, but in Gujarat the day is known as Vaghavaran. People draw a picture of tiger on this day and keep it till the end of Dipawali.

The 14th day of the second half of the Ashwin month is known as Rupachaturdashi in Gujarat. People decorate themselves on this day with new colourful cloths and jewelry. Belief of the people that ‘ghosts travels on this night’ naming this festival as Kalaratra, black night. Hence people avoid traveling at night and worship God Hanuman.

On the new moon day of Ashwin month, people worship Mahakali, Mahalakshmi and Mahasaraswati in the form of ink pen, coin and notebook. On the first day Kartika Kalabhairava is wirshipped. On the occasion of New Year, small children distribute salt. People buy that as an auspicious act.

In Rajasthan Dipawali is celebrated in honor of Rama’s return to Ayodhya after defeating Ravana. Hence they enact the Lanka Dahana. They consider cat as goddess Lakshmi during Dipawali. Like Gujarat on the 14th day Rajasthanis also celebrate Rupachaudasa. On this evening, girls carry lamp in the perforated jars and wander in the village. They also worship Lakshmi on the new moon day. On the first day of Kartika Govardhan puja and Annakoota is performed. This day is also known as Khenkhara. They start using new calculation notebooks on the occasion of New Year.

In Pujab, Dipawali is celebrated in the honour of Ramarajyabhisheka. In Uttar Pradesh, on the day of Dipawali cow is worshiped. People dance on the border of the village.

Sindhis also dance on the border of village on the day of Dipawali. They make platform of mud and place one branch of tree on that and worship it. Then they take some soil of that platform and take it home considering it to be auspicious.

In Bengal, Kali is worshipped on the day of Dipawali, considering her as Laksmi and Saraswati. That night is known as Mahanisha, great night.

In Maharashtra and Goa, the replica of Narakasura is burnt on the day of Narakachaturdashi. In Maharashtra it is made of cow dung. But Goa those are made like Rvanadahana and burnt on that day. A small wild fruit namely Karita is baked as the symbol of Narakasura. In Goa various types of rice flakes are cooked and distributed as this is the season of getting new rice flakes. In Maharashtra normally people buy new broom as it also represents goddess Laksmi. People draw a figure of Bali made of rice flour or cow dung and worship. During the period of Dipawali, children make replica of forts to honor the victory of King Shivaji.

In South India spiritual bath taken before sunrise is considered as auspicious. Women from Andhra Pradesh welcome Goddess Lakshmi on Dipawali night.

Dipawali

Dipawali

References
 (Book/s):
Mahadeva Shastri Joshi. 1964. Bharatiya Sanskruti Kosha, Vol. VI. Pune. Bharatiya Sanskrutikosh Mandal.
Sharma Brijendra Nath. 1978. Festivals of India. New Delhi. Abhinav Publishers.
Bapat Tara. 1991. Rituals and Festivals of India. Mumbai. Popular Prakashan.
Shastri Ravidatta. 1994. Dharmasindhu (with translation). Delhi. Choukhamba Sanskrit Pratishthan.

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