Diwali festival of many stories. And everyone revisits the stories related to the festival and its origin. A post-monsoon festival full of narratives, which happens after the deaths of many demons- Mahishsura killed by Durga, Ram kills Ravana, and during Diwali Krishna kills Narakasura. There are many explanations for Diwali, like the return of Ram to Ayodhya after victory over Ravana. Some who are not religious seek the justification of harvest season, a time to balance the books and close them. The popular ritual is to clean the house and the houses are lit with varieties of lights, from fairy lights to earthen lamps are lit.
This festival of lights is celebrated 20 days after Dusherra- coinciding with Navratri, a festival of nine days in honour of divine feminine deities of Hindu mythology. Diwali is a festival of five days- two days before the new moon and ends two days after. The first day of Diwali- Dhanteras, day of Dhan or wealth. A time to remind everyone that all the wealth comes from below the earth.
All over India, or Hindi speaking areas, house members buy metals in the form of utensils, jewellery or gold; today, electronic goods or vehicles are considered Dhan. The goddess of wealth, Lakshmi- also called Patalanivasini, also resides under the earth.
The next day, the second day of the festival is Narak Chaturdashi, commonly known as Choti Diwali. It is celebrated for the killing of the demon Narakasura by Lord Krishna, his wife Satyabhama and the goddess Kali. Narak was the son of the god Vishnu and the earth goddess. Son of Vishnu and killed by Vishnu in the form Krishna- Vishnu was both his father and killer. And just as Satyabhama bathed Krishna before going to battle, today women bathe their husbands. Now people celebrate it for getting riddance from all things evil, negativities and from things that stop us from walking the right path.
The third day is Lakshmi Puja, the day of the main festival, at night when lamps are lighted and crackers bursts to drive away from the darkness and silence, and to respectfully drive away from the physical embodiment of poverty and inauspiciousness, goddess Alakshmi, twin sister of Lakshmi- who is worshipped on this day. The houses are prepared for Lakshmi’s arrival, every corner of the house is lit by lights or lamps, gifts and food are exchanged. The ritual is to gamble which symbolizes skill and luck; both are associated with the goddess Lakshmi. Diwali is celebrated for the occasion of the return of Lord Ram and Site and Laxman to Ayodhya after the completion of 14 years of exile and victory over Ravana, the entire kingdom celebrated his return by lighting lamps and bursting crackers.
The next day of Lakshmi Puja is commonly known as Govardhan Puja and also in some parts of India, it's Bali Pratipada. It is the day when Asura Bali- ruler of three worlds- was tricked by Vaman (a form of Lord Vishnu) for giving three paces of land and then turned into a giant, covered the sky and the earth in two paces, and by the third step pushed Bali into the ground. Vishnu became a giant not to claim the regions, but to merely put the demon where he belonged. Govardhan Puja is celebrated in honour of nature when Lord Krishna saved the villagers from heavy and incessant rainfall, which was caused by the wrath of Lord Indra, by picking the whole Govardhan Mountain on his pinky finger. By making miniatures of mountains from cow-dung this legend is remembered. Hundreds of dishes are made in dedication to Krishna and then offered to the people.
The last day of the festival is Bhai Duj. The day when the bond between brother and sister is celebrated just like Rakshbandhan but this day brother travels to meet his sister and the sister welcomes him with tilaka on his forehead. It is believed that Yama- the god of the dead- visits his sister the Yamuna- who, after becomes Lakshmi- and another belief is the arrival of Krishna at his sister’s, Subhadra, after defeating the demon Narakasura.
Diwali is a festival of many victories and beliefs, but mainly the victory of good upon evil is celebrated. The folk-lore of demons defeated and killed by the gods in their ordinary human forms symbolizes that humans are capable of and should kill the evils within themselves. Evil may live in rich civilizations, but the presence of wealth in their possession shows that goddess Lakshmi resides where people believe in themselves and their skills and luck- that winners are those who take advantage of what they have with them.
The duration of the festival between the shining and waning of the moon symbolizes the start of another era after the end of one. The representations of girls as the Lakshmi of the house as they become homemakers for their husbands, it’s the duty of her brother Yama to check that she is truly happy. This festival is the main reminder of the happiness that fortune/luck (Lakshmi) is the work of fate (Yama) and we must be happy with what we yield, whatever and however, it may be. Because when we are happy with fortunes in our lives, then only we’ll be truly content and happy.
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