Diwali (Deepawali)

Diwali-Festival

The Diwali Festival lasts for five days. They are known as Dhantrayodashi, Narakchaturdashi, Laxmipujan (New Moon Day), Bali Pratipada, and Bhaubij.

On Dhantrayodashi ("Dhan" = wealth; "Trayodashi" = thirteenth Day) people clean the portion in front of the house and with powders of different colours make beautiful designs on the ground called "rangoli". The women prepare sweet and pungent foods. Three oil lamps are lit and Divali is on ("line of lit lamps").

Lord Ram 's Return

On this day, Lord Ram (the incarnation of Lord Vishnu in the treta Yug) returned to his capital Ayodhya after the exile of fourteen years. Thousands of Years have passed by, and yet so ideal is the kingdom of Ram (Ram Rajya) that it is remembered to this day. Ravan has been eliminated along with most of his rakshasas - by Lord Ram and his brother Lakshman, and their army of monkeys. Sita has been returned to her husband Ram, and they now make their way to Ayodhya in triumph and glory.



Kaikeyi, meanwhile, has done enough penance for the misery caused to the family and the kingdom. Bharat had refused to sit on the throne, and has kept vigil as a regent, and had told Ram that if he did not return on the last day of the fourteen years' exile, he would immolate himself. Consequently, to commemorate the return of Ram, Sita and Lakshman to Ayodhya people celebrate Diwali with the bursting of crackers and by lighting up their houses with earthen diyas or other lamps in the grandest style, year after that year.

Diwali-Festival-Dhanteras
Dhan Teras

The thirteenth day of the dark fortnight, i.e. two days before Diwali is known as Dhan Teras. On this day a new utensil is bought for the house. The house has to be cleaned, washed and whitewashed. On this day, the children are taken out to buy crackers, candles, earthendiyas and a hatri (a small house-like structure made of mud, where a small idol of Lakshmiji sits in the middle).A pair of earthen Lakshmi and Ganeshji are a must for Diwali pujan. (Ganeshji is to be worshipped in all pujas before any other god or goddess.) Lakshmiji, the goddess of wealth, is supposed to visit everyone during Diwali; therefore she must also be fussed over. Earthen katoris known as kulris and chaugaras, lots of kheel (puffed rice), toys made out of candy (known as khand ke khilone), batashas, etc., are required for the puja. The markets are extremely well decorated and full of items which one can buy for the home. Special foods like paari and deevlas are made at home. The day prior to Diwali is known as Chhoti Diwali.

Yamraja King of Death

Once Yamraja, the king of death, asked his servant this question, "When you go to the place of mortals and snatch men's life, did you any time feel bad about it?"
"Yes, your Majesty," the servant replied. "While taking the life of the son of king Haim I felt really sorry. It was the 4th day after his marriage, while joy and merryment was going on all around, when I had to take away his life. I request you never to ask me to cause an untimely death like that."
Yamraja listened and became very concerned. "Alright," he said, "Today is the thirteenth of the dark half of Ashvin, Dhantrayodashi. From today all those who will observe the five day festival of light will not die an untimely death." Because of this the custom spread of lighting lamps on the five days from Dhantrayodashi to Bhaubij.

Narakasur

The following day, the 14th of the dark half of Ashvin, is known as Narak Chaturdashi, ("narak" = hell; "chaturdashi" the 14th day). Narakasur was a wicked king. He fought against neighbouring kings and imprisoned 16,000 women. He snatched away the "chatra" of Indra. He took away the "Kundale" from the ears of Adity, the mother of the gods. He took possession of the abode of the gods at Manyparva among the eternal mountains. His ambition was that no one should ever defeat him. So he turned his capital into a fortress.
When Krishna heard about the wicked deeds of Narakasur he decided to destroy him. But Satyabhama, Krishna's wife, took this task upon herself. Krishna would only be her helper. In the early hours of the 14th day of the dark half of Ashvin, Satyabhama killed Narakasur and liberated the women from his prison. They went home and expressed their joy by lighting lamps and drawing "rangoli". In remembrance of this event even today people get up early in the morning, take bath, draw "rangoli" and make a great celebration.
On this occasion we are reminded of the struggle between good and evil. Narak means hell. Narakasur personifies the powers of hell, a symbol of Satan. Satyabhama represents the role of women in the struggle.

Diwali-Festival-Dhanteras
The Liberation of Laxmi

The new moon night, "amavasya", of Ashvin, is a big celebration, known as Laxmi Pujan. King Bali had taken Laxmi as a slave. Vishnu, in his fifth avatar as Vaman, defeated Bali and liberated Laxmi. On this day the liberation of Laxmi is celebrated by worshipping Laxmi. Shopkeepers and merchants worship their account books and their merchandise. Light overcomes darkness and night becomes like day. People play firecrackers.

Bali Pratipada

The first day of the month Kartik is a full "muhurta", or auspicious day. This is New Year's Day for merchants.
In the month of Bhadrapad Vaman Dwadashi was celebrated to commemorate the story of Vaman's victory over King Bali, who was thrown to hell by Vaman's third step. But since Bali had shown some goodness by keeping his word, Vaman was satisfied and made Bali king of the lower regions and promised him that on the first Pratipada of Kartik people would remember him. So on this day some people take the name of Bali, they worship his picture together with that of his wife, Vindhyavati, and waving the lamp before the picture or idol they sing, "Ida Pida javo, Balitse rajya yevo." ("Let suffering go and let Bali's kingdom come.")

Bhaubij: Brothers and Sisters All

Today is the feast of the brother, also called Yamadwititya, or the Second Day of Yama, because on this day Yama went to visit his sister Yami, and they waved the lamp to each other as a sign of mutual love and respect. On this day sisters wave the lamp to their brothers, and brothers offer gifts to their sisters. This occasion invites brothers and sisters in every family to foster real brotherly love.