Deepavali, popularly known as Diwali, one of the most loved, much-awaited, and celebrated festivals in India, is lovingly called as the ‘festival of lights.’ The Hindu festival is celebrated all over the world with much pomp and glory. It falls in autumn of every year. Not just in India, Diwali is celebrated in Fiji, Guyana, Pakistan, Myanmar, Malaysia, Mauritius, Nepal, Singapore, Sri Lanka, and Trinidad and Tobago.
Diwali is celebrated to signify the victory of good over evil, light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, and optimism over desolation. On the auspicious day of Karthika month, usually in November, you can see most of the houses and temples in India will be illuminated with mud lamps.
Diwali Traditions & Customs, Legends, and Significance
Diwali is usually celebrated for five days, but the important day of Diwali is the new moon day when it the darkest. Two days before the festival, people clean their homes and decorate it with flowers and new items. They take oil baths and cleanse their body and soul. The preparations begin on Dhanteras, and then come the Naraka Chaturdashi, actual Diwali day and Padva and Bhai Dooj in the end. On the night of Diwali, people wear new dresses and light up lamps and candles inside and around the house. They pray to the Goddess of Wealth Lakshmi and perform puja. Later, the entire family eats a lavish dinner together and distributes sweets and gifts to loved ones.
Though it is not a compulsion, people love to burst crackers and enjoy the sight of fireworks. This practice has led to air pollution, which has been condemned by the environmentalists. So, it is best to light lamps and spread love instead of creating noise and air pollution with fireworks.
Diwali is, basically, derived from the word ‘deepavali.’ ‘Deepa’ means ‘lamp’ and ‘avali’ means ‘series’ in Sanskrit. Thus, the Hindus place a series of lamps outside their home on the day of Diwali. It signifies the triumph of light over darkness.
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Legend of deepavali
The festival is celebrated as a memoir of Lord Ram’s triumph over the evil Ravana. Diwali is the day he came back to his kingdom of Ayodhya along with his wife Mata Sita and brother Lakshman. There is also a tale that Diwali is celebrated as the day of remembrance of King Bali, who was killed by Vamana, an Avatar of Lord Vishnu. It is said that Mahabali visits his citizens on earth on Diwali day, and the people welcome him with great grandeur.
Diwali is also associated with Lord of death, Yama and Little Nachiketa, who wins over the Lord because of his righteousness and faith.
Diwali is the biggest holiday season in India and other countries as people buy new clothes, jewellery and accessories. People also buy new stuff to decorate their homes and offices too. They buy gifts for their family and friends. Electronic gadgets, appliances, kitchen utensils, and furniture and vehicles are also purchased on this auspicious day. Sweets, dry fruits, and fruit baskets are exchanged among loved ones, employees and colleagues.
Oil baths, wearing new clothes, prayers, gifts and lighting lamps are all part of the celebration. Women of the house make rangoli outside the house. Cleaning the house and throwing away old stuff is also important. Children of the house listen to stories and legends. They are taught the lessons of goodness and rightness.
Diwali is not just celebrated by Hindus, but also by Jains, Sikhs, and some Buddhists. Diwali is the day to pray Goddess Lakshmi. She is the Goddess of wealth, prosperity, and fertility. The day of Diwali is believed to be the day Lakshmi was born from the ocean of milk, which the Gods and demons churned to get the sacred Amrit. It is also believed that the day before Diwali is the day she wedded Lord Vishnu. Along with Lakshmi, Lord Ganesh, Goddess Saraswati, and several other gods are also worshipped.
The people in West Bengal worship Goddess Kali instead of Lakshmi.
Diwali is a time to prepare delicious dishes and eat till the heart’s content. Kaju Barfi, Gulab Jamun, Kheer, Rasgulla, Veg Biryani, Kulfi, Payasam, Laddoo, Pakora, Paneer, Barfi, etc. are the important dishes and sweets cooked on Diwali. People also give away food and clothes to unprivileged people in order to spread happiness.
The first day of Diwali begins with cleaning and decorating. They buy gold and silver on this day as it signifies luck and wealth.
The second day is also called Choti Diwali. The legend says that Lord Krishna killed demon Narakasura on this day. On this day, the house is decorated, and prayers are offered. The oil bath is given in many households.
The third day is the important day. Goddess Lakshmi is worshipped on this day. Currency and coins are kept in a platter and worshipped. People pray to the Goddess of Wealth to prosper their life. The doors and windows are kept open to welcome Lakshmi, as she is believed to visit the earth on this day. People visit temples and offer prayers.
The day after Diwali is Padwa or Govardhan Puja. It is a day to celebrate love and mutual devotion among husband and wife. Husbands give gifts to their wives. Newly married daughters are invited to their maternal home along with their husbands for special meals. People pray to Lord Krishna on this day.
It is the last day of the festivities. The sisters pray for the long life of their brothers and offer puja. They put tika on the forehead of their brothers and feed them with a delicious meal. The brothers give gifts and cash to their sisters and promise to look out for them during trouble.
Diwali is a festival of peace and love. People enjoy the five-day-long celebrations along with their loved ones. There is a National Holiday of two days when the people can participate in celebrations and visit their family. Lamps are sold in tons on the day of the festival. It is a beautiful sight to see all the lights lit on a dark night. It gives hope and comfort to many people.