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Diwali, the festival of lights is an occasion for the
invocation of the Gods of prosperity and plenty, is celebrated with great
pomp and splendour all across India. The word Diwali is the shortened
version of "Deepawali', which means a cluster of lights or an array
of lamps. The festival is celebrated on the 15th day of Ashwin
(October/November). This new moon night, or Amavasya as it is called is
thus turned into a bright and colourful night.
For most of the people it's a three-day celebration begins with the Dhan-Teras, on the 13th day of the dark half of Kartik, followed the next day by the Roop Chaturdashi or Choti Diwali in the 14th day, and by Diwali proper on the 15th day
Roop Chaturdashi/Choti Diwali
The next day after Dhanteras is Roop Chaturdashi when it is ordained that the human form is kept clean, healthy and beautified in order to ensure the Lord's blessings as it is one's human duty to look after the bodily form given by God. The day dawns and the infectious excitement of Choti Diwali in the air. A ghee lamp with wicks in four directions is lit along with 16 smaller lamps and the house is readied for the main festival of Goddess Mahalakshmi the next day.
Diwali - Row Of Lights
On Diwali, the number of lamps goes up to 26 to be lit at the place of the puja and Kuber the God of wealth. Ganesha, the remover of obstacles, Lord Indra, the repository of power and happiness, Lord Vishnu, the bestower of all wishes and Goddess Saraswati, the fountainhead of knowledge, are invoked along with Mahalakshmi. Sweets are distributed among the poor and not so fortunate ones, to share the bounty of the Goddess.
The morning after, woman of the house are supposed to beat bamboo winnow-baskets outside the main door signifying that as the Goddess Mahalakshmi has come to stay in the house, there is no place for poverty. Beating and thrashing sounds are made to chase him away, singing a particular song.
Legends & Beliefs Behind The Diwali Festival
The related tales about the reason for celebrating Diwali are several. The most popular one being the return and coronation of Lord Rama after a 14-year exile to Ayodhya after his victory over evil in the form of Ravana. According to other traditions, it is said that this was the day of that King Bali made the Paatal Lok his chosen land and so Lord Indra celebrated that fact that his Kingdom of heaven was saved.
It is also believed that the souls of ancestors come to visit their homes on the new moon day of Diwali. Lamps are lit to guide the departed souls on their way to their homes. However, this mythology is associated with Diwali only in parts of Western and Southern India; it is not known in the northern and eastern regions. In South India people take an oil bath in the morning and wear new clothes. They partake of sweetmeats and light fireworks, which are regarded as the effigies of Narakasura who was killed on this day.
Another belief is that it was on this day when the ocean was churned and Mahalakshmi manifest herself and accepted Lord Vishnu as her husband. Another one relates to the King Vikramaditya's declaration of a Samvar Chaitra Sudi Pratipada in consultation with a large number of learned Vidhwans. Perhaps that is why there is a tradition of starting a new account books on this day. It was on this day that the creator of Aryasamaj Maharshi Dayanand got Moksha.
In some regions, the crop harvest, not mythology, is the main reason of the celebration of Diwali. Many sociaologists believe that Diwali began as a celebration of the harvest season. India being an agrarian society, regarded the harvest season as the season of plenty and prosperity. As the end of one harvest and beginning of another season meant the end of one cycle of activity and the beginning of a new one, naturally people looked upon a festival that heralds the beginning of a new year.
Rituals And Celebrations of Diwali
The festival of Diwali is not complete without the Rangoli, a decorative pattern made on the floor to adorn the front of the house. A Rangoli is an invitation to guests and is believed to bring good luck. It has its roots in the designs from Southern India. Usually, the senior members of the family exhort the children of the house to do the Rangoli for the purpose of passing down traditional values and beliefs.
In the cities, communities get together to celebrate. Strings of lillte electric lights and Kandeels are put up. Children with their easy all aglow treat themselves to fireworks - sparklers, flower pots rockets and noisy Phatakas (firecrackers). As the revelry reaches its fevered pitch, people are drawn from all around toward these well-lit, colourful and beautifully decorated packets in the city watch firework displays and to enjoy the festive ambience.
In earlier times, since there was no electricity, clay lamps and paper lanterns were used to light up homes - a tradition that is followed even today. Clay lampa are considered Shudh (pure). The lamps are lanterns also indicate the victory of light over darkness, good over evil and truth over falsehood.
The Essence Of Diwali Festival
It is also the season of giving and renewal. Delicious homemade sweets are packed in decorative boxes and sent to friends and relatives along with wishes for along and prosperous life. Many people even prepare meals for the less fortunate, donate a part of their month's earnings to temples and pray well being for their families. Among the business class Diwali is the time of presenting employees with the gifts and bonuses in appreciation for their dedicated service.Shopkeepers closing their occasions or this time of the year, usually place their ledgers in front of Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth. Laksmi is believed to visit homes and shops that are well lit, families decorate their homes with flowers and paper chains. People don their best clothes, or buy new ones, children are given presents and sweets and season's greetings are exchanged through visits or Diwali cards.
All in all these Diwali celebrations indicate the socio-religious bond that people share with each other. So celebrate the joy of lights and let the deafening roar of fireworks chase away the demons lurking in the dark.
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