Saturday, October 17, 2009

Diwali – The festival of Lights.

Why do we celebrate so many festivals over so many centuries? What do these celebrations bring to people? When people started celebrating? What is the history behind all our festivals? Have we ever searched for all the answers? And now this is the right time to look for all answers. I made a little study on Diwali festival which I like to share here.

Early morning oil bath, Dazzling new dresses, Sparkling fire crackers and Yummy sweets….. This is how my Diwali celebration begins. When I was a kid my mom used to wake me up by 4 in the morning for taking oil bath. She struggled a lot to keep me awake while she was washing my hair. I can’t even imagine how one could sleep while having bath. But I think almost everything is possible when you were a kid.. ;) Then comes my favorite part… New Dresses. There is something special of my Diwali dresses. May be it’s just because Diwali. And I really hate those ear deafening bombs and explosives. It scares me like anything. But I love sparklers…. Safe and colorful. My other favorites are flower pots, chakras and high flying rockets.. They light up the Diwali night sky when the moon was away. I hope you knew that Diwali is on new moon day.

I’ve heard so many stories about Diwali. Diwali is a festival of five day celebration. Each day has its own history.

The First Day:
Dhanteras or Dhantrayodashi

It comes on Thirteenth day of the Kartik month.

The story of this day is about the young son of King Hima. The Prince was doomed to die on his fourth day of marriage as the soothsayers told. Now it is his young wife to save him from the Yama, God of Death. On the third day night his Wife lighted as many Diyas all over the palace and also she laid a huge heap of gold ornaments and coins on her Husband’s room entrance. She and her husband sang devotional songs for the whole night. When Yama came as a serpent to take the Prince’s life his eyes were blinded by the blaze of Diyas. He managed to climb the heap to enter the Prince room. But he stayed there on the heap all the night listening to the songs. In the morning he went leaving her husband’s life. This day is also known to be Yamadeepdaan.

The Second Day:
Naraka Chaturdasi or Choti Diwali

It is on this day Lord Krishna killed the asura Narakasuran. Narakasur defeated the Lord Indran and snatched the earring of the Mother Goddess, Aditi and imprisoned the 16,000 daughters of Gods and Saints. Lord Krishna fought with that Demon and killed him. Krishna freed the 16,000 daughters and recovered the Goddess Aditi’s earring. To celebrate the glorious victory Lord Krishna smeared his forehead with the Asura’s blood and returned home. The womenfolk massaged his body with scented oil and bathed him to wash away the blood. From then on custom of taking early morning oil bath began.

The history also speaks of a legend King Bali of netherland. King Bali, a true devotee of Lord Vishnu was the grand son of Prahalad. He was also the King of Demons. With all the Lord’s Blessings he became invincible to defeat in battle. Scared of his mighty power all the Devas pleaded Lord Vishnu to stop King Bali. Lord Vishnu came to earth disguised as a Vamanan (Dwarf). Vamana asked King Bali for 3 strides of land on the day when King Bali did Ashwamedha Yagam. Being a generous King, Bali agreed him to give whatever he asks for. At the very moment Vamanan turned himself into Lord Vishnu. Lord Vishnu covered the entire world in his first step and the heaven in his next step. Lord asked Bali where He could make his final step. Bali offered his head to keep his promise. Vishnu pushed him to the under world by keeping his foot on his head. No God will ever want their devotee to suffer. Lord Vishnu guarded King Bali’s palace in the Netherland as a doormen. And also Vishnu granted him the permission to visit the world once a year. People believe that lightening lamps expels Darkness and Ignorance and brings Love and Wisdom to their life.

The Third Day:
Lakshmi pooja or Chopada Puja

This falls on the new moon day. It is the main event of Diwali. People worship Goddess Lakshmi to attain her blessings. It is believed that Goddess Lakshmi visits all the houses on this day and she likes cleanest house of all. Hence people find it most important to keep their house clean and lit up Diyas in their home and decorate their entrance with beautiful rangoli pattern to welcome the Goddess Lakshmi. This day is believed to be more auspicious day to close the old account books of the year and start a new one.

The Fourth Day:
Padwa or Varshapratipada or Govardhan-Puja

This day is to celebrate the incident of lifting the Govardhan hill by Lord Krishna. The Citizens of Gokul worshipped Lord Indra at end of the monsoon to thank him for the gratitude of rain. One particular year, young Krishna made the people to worship the fields and cattle instead of Lord Indra. The angered Lord Indra decided to submerge the Gokul under water. Lord Krishna lifted the Govardhan hill and held it as umbrella. Thus, He saved the people and cattle of Gokul. On this day people build hillocks of cow dung and decorate it with flowers and then worship them.

The Fifth Day:
Bhayya-Duj or Yama Dwitiya.

In the Vedic era, Yamaraj, the God of Death visited his sister, Yamuna (Yami) on this day. Yamuna put the auspicious tilak on his forehead. They ate together and enjoyed the day and shared gifts. While parting he gave his sister a boon that whoever visit her on this day shall be redeemed from their sins. Since then it became a custom for brothers to visit their sisters and receive the auspicious tilak.

Diwali is not about simply lighting Diyas, bursting Crackers and watching TV. But it is about fighting over the darkness and ignorance and reaching the innermost depth of the heart and enlightenment of the soul. It is more social festival than a religious one when the differences are forgotten and families and friends meet and share and enjoy.

Diwali not only lights our home with Diyas but also our soul with joy and happiness.

Happy Diwali…….

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