One of the most popular festivals of Hinduism, it spiritually signifies the victory of light over darkness, good over evil, knowledge over ignorance, and hope over despair. Its celebration includes millions of lights shining on housetops, outside doors and windows, around temples and other buildings in the communities and countries where it is observed.
Day 1: Dhanteras
Deepavali festival starts with Dhanteras on which most Indian business communities begin their financial year. 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. Dhanteras is also a major shopping day, particularly for gold or silver articles.
Day 2: Naraka Chaturdasi
The second day of the festival, Naraka Chaturdasi, marks the vanquishing of the demon Naraka by Lord Krishna and his wife Satyabhama. The day is celebrated by early morning religious rituals and festivities followed on. This day is commonly celebrated as Deepavali in Tamil Nadu, Goa and Karnataka. Typically, house decoration and colourful floor patterns called rangoli are made on or before Narak Chaturdasi. 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 Pooja
Amavasya, the third day of Deepawali, marks the worship of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth in her most benevolent mood, fulfilling the wishes of her devotees. Amavasya also tells the story of Lord Vishnu, who in his dwarf incarnation vanquished the Bali, and banished him to Patala. Small earthenware lamps 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.
Day 4: Padwa / Balipratipada
It is on the fourth day of Deepawali, Kartika Shudda Padyami, that Bali went to patala and took the reins of his new kingdom in there. This day ritually celebrates the love and mutual devotion between the wife and husband. The husbands give thoughtful gifts, or elaborate ones to respective spouses. In many regions, newly married daughters with their husbands are invited for special meals. Sometimes brothers go and pick up their sisters from their in-laws home for this important day. The day is also a special day for the married couple, in a manner similar to anniversaries elsewhere in the world.
Diwali also marks the beginning of new year, in some parts of India, where the Hindu Vikram Samvat calendar is popular. Merchants and shopkeepers close out their old year, and start a new fiscal year with blessings from Lakshmi and other deities.
Day 5: Bhai Duj / Bhaiya Dooji
The fifth day is referred to as Yama Dvitiya (also called Bhai Dooj), and on this day sisters invite their brothers to their homes. The day ritually emphasizes the love and lifelong bond between siblings. It is a day when women and girls get together, perform a puja with prayers for the well being of their brothers, then return to a ritual of food-sharing, gift-giving and conversations. In historic times, this was a day in autumn when brothers would travel to meet their sisters, or bring over their sister’s family to their village homes to celebrate their sister-brother bond with the bounty of seasonal harvests.
Deepavali “festival of lights” involves the lighting of small clay lamps (diyas or dīpas) in Sanskrit: दीप) filled with oil to signify the triumph of good over evil.
Diwali falls on the one new moon night between mid-October and mid-November. Deepavali is celebrated for five days according to the lunisolar Hindu Calendar. It begins in late Ashvin (between September and October) and ends in early Kartika (between October and November). The first day is Dhan Teras. The last day is Yama Dvitiya, which signifies the second day of the light half of Kartika. Each day of Deepavali marks one celebration of the six principal stories associated with the festival.
On the same night that Hindus celebrate Diwali, Jains celebrate a festival also called Diwali to mark the attainment of moksha by Mahavira
Sikhs celebrate Bandi Chhor Divas to mark the release of Guru Hargobind from a Mughal Empire prison.
Newar Buddhists, unlike the majority of Buddhists, celebrate Diwali by worshipping Lakshmi.
While the story behind Deepavali and the manner of celebration varies from region to region (festive fireworks, worship, lights, sharing of sweets), the essence is the same – to rejoice in the Inner Light.
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- Person Prashant. M. H.