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Important Festivals of India-Diwali-the Festival of Lights

It is festive time again and this time it is the favorite festival of people of India. It is Diwali or Deepavali as it called in different.

THE FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS IS HERE

THE FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS IS HERE

Diwali Is Here

Diwali is the favorite festival of the people of India. It is that time of the year when family and friends meet, greet each other, exchange gifts, prepare and relish a wide variety of delicacies. It is the time to indulge in fun, frolic, delicious food, exchange of gifts, and lots of pictures of the joyous event. But this year due to the pandemic the celebrations are low-key and simple. The festival this time is marked with social distancing, avoiding large get-togethers, minimum travel, and eco-friendly items.

Diwali brings back nostalgic memories of my childhood. The festival meant lots of shopping, vibrant colorful decorations at home, beautiful patters called Rangolis in the front yard of the house, lighting beautiful diyas or lamps, hanging colorful lanterns at the entrance to the house, bursting crackers at night and of course the varieties of sweets and savories specially prepared for the occasion. We eagerly awaited the gifts, trying to guess what it would be this time. The atmosphere, filled with excitement and joy was something we eagerly looked forward to and participated with great enthusiasm. The preparations would start days before the festival with a thorough cleaning and declutter of the house, then decorating the home preparing special dishes which include traditional sweets and lots of shopping.

Dhanteras (Day of fortune)

Dhanteras (Day of fortune)

Celebrations-Day 1 and 2

Diwali is celebrated 21 days after the festival of Navratri. On the fifteenth day, of the Lunisolar month of Kartika of the Hindu calendar.

It is celebrated for 5 days:

Day 1-Dhanteras (Day of fortune)

Dhanteras-is a combination of two sanskrit words dhan meaning wealth, and teras being the 13th day of the Hindu calendar. It is a festival marked by praying to the goddess Lakshmi. It is believed that purchasing gold and other precious metals on this day is very auspicious. Taking advantage of this belief Jewelry traders do brisk business on this day, offering massive discounts and attractive deals, luring the customers. Gold or silver coins are often gifted to near and dear ones during this time as it is seen as a good option that can fetch good returns during times of need.

Day 2-Narakachaturdasi (Day of Knowledge)

As per popular legend, Lord Krishna killed the demon Narakasura and saved the sixteen thousand women imprisoned by him. It is the celebration of the victory of good over evil on this day. People wake up before dawn, bathe, perform puja, wear new clothes, share sweets and gifts with friends and family, and burst firecrackers. The front yards of houses are lit with beautiful diyas (lamps), lanterns, and Rangolis. The night sky is a pleasure to watch as it is lit with thousands of crackers.

Diwali (Day of Light)

Diwali (Day of Light)

Goddess Lakshmi

Goddess Lakshmi

Day 3, 4 and 5

Day 3-Diwali (Day of Light)

The goddess of wealth Lakshmi who is known to bestow good luck, wealth, and prosperity, is worshipped on this day. Shops, businesses, and homes perform puja with great fervor and devotion. It is believed to be the most auspicious and significant day for Hindus all over the world.

Day 4-Annakut (New year)

It is also called Padwa or Govardhan puja symbolic of the day Lord Krishna protected the people of Gokul from the wrath of Lord Indra by lifting the Govardhan mountain with his little finger and saving them from the floods caused by Lord Indra. North Indians celebrate it as New Year’s Day.

Day 5-Bhai Duj (Day of love between siblings)

It is the day to celebrate the bond between brothers and sisters. It is believed that on this day Yama the lord of death visited his sister who prayed for his wellbeing and put a tilak or auspicious mark on his forehead to protect him. So brothers visit their sisters on this day and receive the tilak from them for safety and wellbeing.

Day of Light

Day of Light

Significance of Diwali

Diwali or Deepavali meaning row of lights is a celebration of lights. Different regions have different stories related to the celebration of this festival. The traditional belief is that Lord Krishna killed the demon Narakasura who had caused havoc in the kingdom of Pragjyotishapura on this day. Hence it is called Naraka Chaturdashi. In North India, it is celebrated to commemorate the return of Lord Rama with his wife Sita and brother Lakshmana to his kingdom Ayodhya after defeating Ravana the demon king who abducted Sita during their exile. It is also an occasion for Lakshmi Puja in many places. Mythological stories describe the birth of Goddess Lakshmi on this day during the churning of the cosmic ocean, also called Samudra Manthan. In eastern India, Goddess Durga in her fierce Kali avatar is worshipped. In some parts, Goddess Saraswati is worshipped as the giver of knowledge, wisdom in arts, music, and literature. Though the stories differ, the underlying significance is the victory of good over evil, light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, and hope over despair.

Characteristics of the Festival-Rangoli

An integral part of the festival is the beautiful art patterns called rangoli drawn on the floor in puja rooms, living rooms, and in courtyards using materials like rice, sand, dry flour, or even flowers. Apart from adding aesthetic value to the home, it is believed to bring in prosperity and luck. It is also believed to guard the home against evil spirits or entities. Rangolis inspire positivity and prosperity. Traditionally this art form is passed on from one generation to the next, by the women of the household.

Lanterns

Lanterns

Lanterns

The popular belief that the spirits of the dead visit the homes of their relatives and if they do not find the light at the entrance, may curse or bring bad luck to the people of the house, gave birth to the idea of sky lanterns. The lanterns are lit as a gesture of respect to these spirits and to invite them to be with them during the festivities. They are also called Akash Deepa (lanterns of the sky). They come in various hues, designs, and colors and are a pleasure to see in the night sky. They have become quite an art form, generally made of paper, and hung in front of homes. It is a good occasion for the members of the family to get together and make beautiful art pieces as lanterns during the festival.

Diwali delicacies

Diwali delicacies

Delicacies

Diwali is a festival of delicious food as much as the festival of lights. Various regions of the country prepare various traditional sweets and savories and share them with friends and family. The idea behind it is to spread happiness, goodwill, celebrate the sweetness of life, and make the festival memorable. Sweets like laddu, Gulab jamun, halwa, barfi are the popular varieties. Savories like chivda, pakora, samosa, bonda, murukku are also made. They are mostly made from ingredients such as rice, coconut, flour, cardamom, and sugar.

gifts

gifts

Gifting

Gifting is an important aspect of the Diwali festival. People spend a considerable amount of time energy and resources planning on gifts for relatives and friends on the occasion. The idea behind the exchange of gifts on Diwali is to convey love and affection, appreciation, wishes, and blessings. A gift is a token to strengthen bonds with near and dear ones. Often it is the giver who feels immense pleasure than the receiver. The planning, the shopping, and the joy of giving gifts, all add a sense of gratification and sustained pleasure to the giver.

important-festivals-of-india-diwali-the-festival-of-lights

In Conclusion

The splendor and grandeur with which Diwali is celebrated may be missing this year due to the pandemic but the spirit of the festival remains. People have opted to celebrate it with safety and responsibility hoping that the crisis gets over soon and normalcy returned. To look at the brighter side of life and celebrate the gift of life in a simple manner and with gratitude is the mantra today.

We face difficulties every day in life whether it is in relationships, in finance, or in illness that seems impossible to deal with at times. But we should not let the darkness engulf us. We need to tune in to the teachings of ancient saints and mystics who advise us to tap into the light of our soul. When we turn inwards and identify our true nature which is light and happiness, we will never fear the darkness of difficult situations in life. A little time spent in meditation every day leads us to experience this inner light. The innate goodness and light within us will help us overcome all difficulties in life. So, let us enjoy the inner light along with the light of diyas of the Diwali festival.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 VIDYA D SAGAR

Comments

VIDYA D SAGAR (author) on November 16, 2020:

Hi Suresh, thanks for the visit and the comments. I appreciate it. I am glad that you liked it. Have a great day.

VIDYA D SAGAR (author) on November 16, 2020:

Hi Chitra, thanks for the visit and the nice comments. Yes the traditional beliefs and stories behind each day's celebrations are very interesting. In our enthusiasm to celebrate the festival we often tend to forget the inspiring stories behind them.

VIDYA D SAGAR (author) on November 16, 2020:

Thanks Lorna for the visit and the kind comments. The festival of lights is a celebration of the gift that is life and the pandemic had made us realise how precious and fragile this gift is.

VIDYA D SAGAR (author) on November 16, 2020:

Thanks Peggy for the wishes and the comments. Yes this year the fervor is less due to the pandemic, but the people try to keep the tradition and spirit alive though in a simple and safe way.

VIDYA D SAGAR (author) on November 16, 2020:

Thanks Flourish for the visit and the comments. Diwali is a fascinating festival, colorful, vibrant and full of joy. It is a favourite festival of people worldwide, so I thought a recollection of it's significance would be a good idea.

VIDYA D SAGAR (author) on November 16, 2020:

Thanks Smriti for the visit and the comments. I appreciate it. Happy to know you liked it. Have a good day.

FlourishAnyway from USA on November 16, 2020:

Happy Diwali! Thank you for sharing its meaning. Recently, the local school district here rescinded the state holiday for Columbus Day and gave the kids a new day off in honor of Diwali. Few people knew much about it. I appreciate the education!

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on November 15, 2020:

Happy Diwali to you! You gave a wonderful explanation of the meaning of this festival and how it is celebrated. While this year may be different due to the pandemic, I am sure that what is held near and dear will always be felt.

Lorna Lamon on November 15, 2020:

This is a wonderful celebration full of hope and joy. I believe that light will always triumph and even though Covid has changed how we celebrate, it can never diminish the spirit of the event. Thank you for sharing this interesting and beautiful article.

Chitra on November 14, 2020:

Loved the article. You have written in detail the significance of each day

Suresh on November 14, 2020:

Enjoyed reading the article

Good article

Smriti on November 14, 2020:

Loved this article

VIDYA D SAGAR (author) on November 14, 2020:

Hi Pamela, good to see you. Thanks for the nice comments. Covid has really affected our lives in more ways than we can imagine. Normal life seems to be a dream now.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on November 14, 2020:

Thank you for educating me about Diwali. I really enjoyed reading your article, Vidya. It is a shame theat Covid has affected so many of the things that we enjoy.