The word “Diwali” is derived from the Sanskrit word “Deepavali” meaning “row of lights”. While Diwali is popularly known as the “festival of lights”, the spiritual take is “the awareness of the inner light”. The celebration is “victory of good over evil”. It refers to the light of higher knowledge dispelling all ignorance. On top of this, on main Diwali day, goddess of wealth, Lakshmi (Laxmi) is worshipped, hence this is festival where people show their richness and offer prayers to goddess Lakshmi to bring prosperity in their life.
The festival spans across five days and the preparation starts a month before. There are various stories behind celebration of Diwali. Some of the significant are:
- According to Hindu Lunar calendar ‘New Year’ starts on this day.
- Return of Rama to his kingdom after 14 years of long exile after killing demon-king Ravana. In joyous celebration of the return of their king, the people of Ayodhya, the Capital of Rama, illuminated the kingdom with earthen diyas and by bursting firecrackers.
- Return of Pandavas after 12 years of Agyatvas (banishment to unknown place) during Mahabharat
- Killing of demon Narakasura by Krishna or his wife SatyabhamaWhen is Diwali celebrated Diwali falls on the one new moon night between mid-October and mid-November. According to Hindu calendar it’s new year eve.
Since there is no moon rise this day and the darkness is all around, people lit their house with candles, lamps and beautiful decorative lights, symbolizing victory of lights over darkness.
The date changes in the solar (Gregorian) calendar every year. This year (2012) Diwali is on Tuesday, November 13.
Importance of Diwali
Unarguably Diwali is most famous and widely celebrated festival in Indian and is also popular in other countries like Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Mauritius, Guyana, Trinidad & Tobago, Suriname, Malaysia, Singapore and Fiji.
It spans all across diverse culture of India. It also coincides with harvest time in India. People splurge at this time of festival. Each corner of house is cleaned, white washed and decorated. The weather in India is pleasant at this time which supports five joyous day of festivity.
The festival is predominated by colorful display of lights, bursting of crackers, cleanliness, sweets, lots of shopping, happiness.
It is also important for business community. Some business do whole year worth of business just on this festival. In traditional way accounting year starts from this day. People save money all through year to enjoy this festival. It is also believed that gold, silver jewelry and new utensils should be bought during this time to have good fortune all year.
Preparation and essential decorations for Diwali:
Diya or Deep (from which the name of festival Deepavali ) is small container made our of earth/clay. It is fuelled with oil from coconuts, mustard or Ghee (clarifiedRows of Diya’s add to beautiful decoration on DiwaliLighted hangings for Diwali
butter). The wick is made of cotton. Worship of goddess Lakshmi is done with the lit Diya and also hundreds of Diyas are places outside of the houese, on floors, balconies, doorways and in each room. In modern time this clay Diyas are being replaced by electric candle like lamps and also with various modern technical light shows.
During Diwali festival, doorways are hung with torans of mango leaves and marigolds. There are designer Torans available now-a-days which are hung on the front door all year and replaced on Diwali day with new one.
Another beautiful addition to the fun of Diwali is sand art (Rangoli) applied in floor at the front of the house and inside.
At Henna Arts we provide Rangoli services with design of your choice. Perfect for corporate events or for party on Bollywood or Moroccan theme.
Five Days of Celebration
It’s the best time of year in India. Kids get long break during this time. Festival this important does not end on one day.
Day 1: Dhanteras or ‘Dhan Trayodashi’Krishna killed demon on this day
The first day of Diwali celebration is marked by Dhanteras. According to the legends, during the churning of ocean by the Gods and the demons, Dhanvantari – the physician of the Gods came out of the ocean on the day of Dhanteras, with a pot of amrita (nectar) that was meant for the welfare of the humankind. This day also marks the arrival of Goddess Lakshmi, which is celebrated by drawing small footprints of the deity, with rice flour and vermilion powder.
This is the day when people buy new utensils and exchange leaves of specific plant symbolizing sharing wealth
Day 2: Narak Chaturdashi (Chhoti Diwali)
One famous story behind the celebrations of Diwali is about the demon king Narakasur, who was ruler of Pragjyotishpur, a province to the South of Nepal. During a war, he defeated Lord Indra and snatched away the magnificent earrings of Mother Goddess Aditi, who was not only the ruler of Suraloka, but also a relative of Lord Krishna’s wife – Satyabhama. Narakasur also imprisoned sixteen thousand daughters of Gods and saints in his harem. A day before Diwali, Lord Krishna killed Narakasur, released the jailed daughters and restored the precious earrings of Mother Goddess Aditi.
As the name “Chhoti Diwali” where “chhoti” means small suggests, this day a scaled down version of Diwali is celebrated with less fan-fare.
Day 3: Main Diwali (Legends of Ram)Ram returns to his kingdom on Diwali day after killing demon RavanaGoddess of wealth Lakshmi is worshipped on Diwali day
The most famous legend behind the celebrations of Diwali is about the prince of Ayodhya – Lord Shri Ram. According to the legend, the king of Lanka, Ravan, kidnapped Lord Ram’s wife (Sita) from the jungle, where they were staying as per the instructions of King Dashratha, father of Lord Ram. Then Ram attacked Lanka, killed Ravan and released Sita from the custody. He returned to Ayodhya with his wife Sita and younger brother Lakshamana after fourteen years.
Therefore, the people of Ayodhyaa decorated their homes as well as Ayodhyaa, by lighting tiny diyas, in order to welcome their beloved prince Shri Ram and Devi Sita. It was the day of ‘Kartik Amavasyaa’ when they also celebrated the victory of Shri Ram over the King of Lanka, Ravan. Ram is considered the symbol of good and the positive things and Ravan represents the evils. Therefore, Diwali is considered the festival, which establishes the victory of good over the evil. On the night of Diwali, people light diyas, which is again an icon of positive energy to conquer darkness, the is symbol of negative energy.
On this day, goddess Laxmi is worshipped with Ram and Ganesh. Diyas are arranged in special way in the puja place. Every community has it’s own way of worship. But everyone in the home wear new cloth for puja, distribute sweets and touch feet out of respect of elders and relatives. Kids enjoy with fire crackers in the road, in the front of house and even inside house ladies burn the lighting crackers. In India there is no restrictions (as yet) to burn fire crackers in the streets.
(For Aarti of Lakshmi ji and puja methods downloads click here)
Day 4: Govardhan Puja (Legends of Krishna)Krishna lifts the Govardhan mountain with one finger to save villagers from flooding rain
‘Govardhan’ is a small hillock situated at ‘Braj’, near Mathura. The legends in ‘Vishnu Puraan’ have it that the people of Gokul used to worship and offer prayers to Lord Indra for the rains, because they believed that it were He, who was responsible for rainfall for their welfare. However, Lord Krishna told them that it was Mount Govardhan (Govardhan Paevat) and not Lord Indra, who caused rains. Therefore, they should worship the former and not the latter.
People did the same, which made Lord Indra so furious that the people of Gokul had to face heavy rainfall because of his anger. Lord Krishna came forward to ensure their security and after performing worship and offering prayers to Mount Govardhan, he lifted it as an umbrella, on the little finger of his right hand, so that everyone could take shelter under it. After this event, Lord Krishna was also known as Giridhari or Govardhandhari.
Some community celebrated this day as Gudi Padwa (New Year day by Maharashtrians). It is also known as Ugadi in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. This festival marks the beginning of the spring season .This festival symbolizes love and devotion between the wife and husband. On this day newly married daughters with their husbands are invited for special meals and given presents.
Day 5: Bhai Dooj
According to the legends, Lord Yamraj, the God of Death, visited his sister Yamuna on the ‘Shukla Paksha Dwitiya’ day in the Hindi month of ‘Kartik’. When Yamraj reached Yamuna’s home, she welcomed him by performing his aarti, applying ‘Tilak’ on his forehead and by putting a garland around his neck. Yamuna also cooked varieties of dishes, prepared many sweets for her brother and offered all those to Him.Decoration of Golden Temple, India
Lord Yamraj ate all those delicious dishes and when he was finished, he showered blessings on Yamuna and gave her a boon that if a brother visits his sister on this day, he would be blessed with health and wealth. This is why this day of Bhayya Duj is also known by the name of ‘Yam-Dwitiya’. Thus, it has become a tradition that on the day of Bhai-Dooj for the brothers to visit their sisters’ home and offer them gifts. Sisters also make various dishes for their brothers and give gifts to them.
Diwali in USA & Austin
Senate Resolution 299, recognizing the “religious and historical significance of the festival of Diwali,” passed unanimously on November 14, 2007 in the U.S. Senate.
President Obama also celebrated Diwali on White House.
This is just glimpse of what and how of Diwali. There is so much more. If you are planning to travel India. This is the best time to visit and see the color and brightness of life .
In Austin, Diwali is celebrated on Austin Hindu Temple (9801 Decker Lake Rd, Austin, TX), Sri Sai Temple (2509 West New Hope Drive, Cedar Park, TX 78613) and at Radha Madhav Dham, 400 Barsana Rd. Austin, TX 78737
Henna Arts wishes you very happy Diwali and prosperous new year
(For Aarti of Lakshmi ji and puja methods downloads click here)