Diwali-Deepavali Festival Story And Its Significance
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Diwali is a major Indian festival that is very significant in Hinduism and Jainism. Celebrated by approximately 1 billion Hindus and Jains and known as the “Festival of Lights,” and lamps are lit as a sign of celebration and hope for humankind. The lights also represent the time when Rama came back from the forest, and the people of Ayodhya (the capital of his kingdom) lit lamps to welcome him back home. Celebrations focus on lights and lamps, particularly traditional dipa or deeya (earthen lamp, as illustrated). Fireworks are associated with the festival. Diwali is a colloquial name used in North India, while the festival is formally called Deepavali in South India.
Diwali is celebrated for five consecutive days at the end of Hindu month of Kartika (purminata) or Ashwayuja (amanta). It usually occurs in October/November, and is one of the most popular and eagerly awaited festivals in India. Diwali comes exactly twenty days after Dussehra. Hindus, Jains and Sikhs alike regard it as a celebration of life and use the occasion to strengthen family and social relationships. For Hindus it is one of the most important festivals, and beginning of the year in some Hindu calendars.
There are several beliefs regarding the origin of the holiday. The most repeated version is that Hindus celebrate Diwali to mark the time when Lord Rama achieved victory over Ravana. Some also view it as the day Krishna defeated the demon Narakasura or in honor of the day Bali went to rule the nether-world, obeying the order of Vishnu. In Jainism it marks the nirvana of Lord Mahavira, which occurred on Oct. 15, 527 B.C. It is also a significant festival for the Sikh faith. In India, Diwali is now considered to be more of a national festival, and the aesthetic aspect of the festival is enjoyed by most Indians regardless of faith.
According to Hindu Stories:
The festival marks the victory of good over evil. The Sanskrit word Deepavali means an array of lights that stands for victory of brightness over darkness. As the knowledge of Sanskrit diminished, the name was popularly modified to Diwali, especially in northern India. In South India, Diwali does not coincide with the beginning of a new year as South Indians follow a different calendar, the Shalivahana calendar.
On the day of Diwali, many wear new clothes, share sweets and snacks. Some North Indian business communities start their financial year on Diwali and new account books are opened on this day.
History of Diwali
Five Days of Diwali Celebrations
The first day of this festival begins with ‘Dhan Trayodashi’ or ‘Dhanteras’. After the Dhanvantari Trayodashi, the second day of Diwali is called ‘Narak Chaturdashi’, which is popular as ‘Chhoti Diwali’. The third day of Diwali, which is also called ‘Badi Diwali’ is the main day of celebrations of the festival of diwali. The fourth day of the festival is devoted to Govardhan Pooja (worship of Lord Govardhan Parvat). The fifth day of the festival is Bhai Dooj, the time to honor the brother-sister relationship.
The first day of Diwali celebration is marked by Dhanteras. According to the legends, during the churning of ocean by the Gods and the demons, Dhanvantari – the physician of the Gods came out of the ocean on the day of Dhanteras, with a pot of amrita that was meant for the welfare of the humankind. This day also marks the arrival of Goddess Lakshmi, which is celebrated by drawing small footprints of the deity, with rice flour and vermilion powder.
Narak Chaturdashi (Choti Diwali) History
One famous story behind the celebrations of Diwali is about the demon king Narakasur, who was ruler of Pragjyotishpur, a province to the South of Nepal. During a war, he defeated Lord Indra and snatched away the magnificent earrings of Mother Goddess Aditi, who was not only the ruler of Suraloka, but also a relative of Lord Krishna’s wife – Satyabhama. Narakasur also imprisoned sixteen thousand daughters of Gods and saints in his harem. A day before Diwali, Lord Krishna killed Narakasur, released the jailed daughters and restored the precious earrings of Mother Goddess Aditi.
Diwali And Shri Ram of Ayodhyaa
The most famous legend behind the celebrations of Diwali is about the prince of Ayodhya Nagri – Lord Shri Ram. According to the legend, the king of Lanka, Ravan, kidnapped Lord Ram’s wife (Sita) from the jungle, where they were staying as per the instructions of King Dashratha, father of Lord Ram. Then Ram attacked Lanka, killed Ravan and released Sita from the custody. He returned to Ayodhya with his wife Sita and younger brother Lakshamana after fourteen years.
Therefore, the people of Ayodhyaa decorated their homes as well as Ayodhyaa, by lighting tiny diyas, in order to welcome their beloved prince Shri Ram and Devi Sita. It was the day of ‘Kartik Amavasyaa’ when they also celebrated the victory of Shri Ram over the King of Lanka, Ravan. Ram is considered the symbol of good and the positive things and Ravan represents the evils. Therefore, Diwali is considered the festival, which establishes the victory of good over the evil. On the night of Diwali, people light diyas, which is again an icon of positive energy to conquer darkness, the is symbol of negative energy.
Govardhan Puja History
‘Govardhan’ is a small hillock situated at ‘Braj’, near Mathura. The legends in ‘Vishnu Puraan’ have it that the people of Gokul used to worship and offer prayers to Lord Indra for the rains, because they believed that it were He, who was responsible for rainfall for their welfare. However, Lord Krishna told them that it was Mount Govardhan (Govardhan Paevat) and not Lord Indra, who caused rains. Therefore, they should worship the former and not the latter.
People did the same, which made Lord Indra so furious that the people of Gokul had to face heavy rainfall because of his anger. Lord Krishna came forward to ensure their security and after performing worship and offering prayers to Mount Govardhan, he lifted it as an umbrella, on the little finger of his right hand, so that everyone could take shelter under it. After this event, Lord Krishna was also known as Giridhari or Govardhandhari.
Bhai Dooj History
According to the legends, Lord Yamraj, the God of Death, visited his sister Yamuna on the ‘Shukla Paksha Dwitiya’ day in the Hindi month of ‘Kartik’. When Yamraj reached Yamuna’s home, she welcomed him by performing his aarti, applying ‘Tilak’ on his forehead and by putting a garland around his neck. Yamuna also cooked varieties of dishes, prepared many sweets for her brother and offered all those to Him.
Lord Yamraj ate all those delicious dishes and when he was finished, he showered blessings on Yamuna and gave her a boon that if a brother visits his sister on this day, he would be blessed with health and wealth. This is why this day of Bhayya Duj is also known by the name of ‘Yam-Dwitiya’. Thus, it has become a tradition that on the day of Bhai-Dooj for the brothers to visit their sisters’ home and offer them gifts. Sisters also make various dishes for their brothers and give gifts to them.
History Of Sikh Community’s Diwali
In the Sikh community, Diwali celebrations have special importance as for them it, is popular as the day when their sixth Guru, Guru Har Govind ji came back from the captivity of the fort of Gwalior city. The people illuminated lamps in the way to Shri Harmandhir Sahib, which is known by the name of ‘the Golden Temple’, to honor and welcome their beloved Guru.
History of Jain Community’s Diwali
For the Jain community, the festival of Diwali has special significance. It is the day when the famous Jain prophet Bhagvaan Mahaveer, the founder of Jainism, attained ‘Nirvana’. Therefore, the people of Jain community celebrate the festival of Diwali in remembrance of Lord Mahavira.
As per spiritual references, on this day “Lakshmi-panchayatan” enters the Universe. Sri Vishnu, Sri Indra, Sri Kuber, Sri Gajendra and Sri Lakshmi are elements of this “panchayatan” (a group of five).
The tasks of these elements are:
* Vishnu: Happiness (happiness and satisfaction)
* Indra: Opulence (satisfaction due to wealth)
* Kubera: Wealth (one who gives away wealth)
* Gajendra: Carries the wealth
* Lakshmi: Divine Energy (Shakti) which provides energy to all the above activities.